– GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released From Teasing to Torment: A Profile of School Climate in Missouri
, a report that provides a rare look into student experiences with bullying and harassment in Missouri schools. The results are based on responses from Missouri students who took part in a national survey of secondary school students and teachers conducted by Harris Interactive® for GLSEN.
"This report underscores the work to be done in Missouri to ensure safe schools for all students, and documents a situation that requires action," said Kevin Jennings, GLSEN Founder and Executive Director. "Missouri can send a clear message to all its students that it cares about protecting them from bullying and harassment by passing a comprehensive safe schools law that includes enumerated categories."
Key findings include:
Biased language used frequently in Missouri schools
Bullying, name-calling, and harassment are serious problems in Missouri schools
An overwhelming majority of Missouri youth reported hearing homophobic remarks such as “that’s so gay” (86%) or derogatory terms such as “faggot” or “dyke” (76%) in school. A majority of Missouri youth also reported hearing sexist remarks (85%) from students in their school.
Two-thirds (65%) of youth reported hearing negative remarks about someone’s gender expression, such as a girl acting “too much like a boy,” and almost half (45%) reported hearing racist remarks in school.
School authorities did not consistently intervene when hearing biased language in school. Less than half of Missouri youth said that teachers or other school staff frequently intervened when hearing homophobic (40%), sexist (45%) or racist (45%) language at school.
Sizable percentages of youth reported hearing biased remarks from school personnel—17% heard sexist remarks, 12% heard homophobic or negative religious remarks, and 9% heard racist remarks from teachers or other staff at their school.
Almost half (48%) of Missouri youth reported bullying, name calling and harassment to be somewhat or very serious problems at their school, which was greater than the national average (36%).
Nearly half (43%) of Missouri youth felt at-risk because of at least one personal characteristic, such as their physical appearance, sexual orientation or gender expression.
A majority of youth reported that other students were bullied and harassed at school because of their physical appearance (86%), gender expression (64%) and sexual orientation (61%).
Reports of verbal harassment and physical harassment and assault, particularly because of physical appearance, were not uncommon among Missouri youth. Over half (56%) had been verbally harassed based on their physical appearance, and a third had been physically harassed or assaulted because of this characteristic.
Many youth were verbally harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation (15%) and gender expression (19%), regardless of whether or not they were actually lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
Incidents of harassment and assault were often not reported to teachers and
other school staff. When reported, responses of faculty and other school staff
were often inadequate:
Nearly one-half (48%) of youth who experienced harassment or assault at school did not report it to school authorities, often because they believed reporting incidents would make the situation worse or that school staff would not take action to resolve it.
Among youth who did report incidents of harassment/assault, only 37% reported that some immediate action was taken by school authorities to address the situation.
LGBT students lacked access to resources and supports:
Less than 10% of Missouri youth reported that their school had a GSA or other type of student club that provided support to LGBT students, which was lower than the national average (22%).
Only about half (52%) of Missouri youth reported that their school had a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that specifically mentioned sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression. Nearly a quarter (22%) did not know if their school had a policy of any kind.
Missouri teachers and other school staff need training to address the inconsistency in their responses when learning of incidents of harassment and assault or when hearing students make derogatory remarks in school. In addition, schools should establish and enforce “no tolerance” policies regarding the use of biased language by school staff.
Given that only half of Missouri students reported being protected by comprehensive anti-harassment policies in their schools, state-level safe school legislation that provides specific enumerated categories, such as sexual orientation and gender expression, must be adopted.
School staff and administrators must ensure that students are made fully aware of any anti-harassment protections provided by their school.
Student interviews were conducted online in January 2005 by a nationally representative sample of 3,450 public and private/parochial students ages 13 to 18. Within this sample, an oversample of students was drawn from 12 states, including Missouri (186 students).
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.