New Survey Illustrates Severity of Problem, and Identifies Frequent Targets of Verbal and Physical Harassment
New York – GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today announced the results of a new survey conducted on its behalf by Harris Interactive® titled “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers.” The national survey of over 3,400 students aged 13-18 and over 1,000 secondary school teachers, explores students’ and teachers’ experiences with bullying and harassment, and their attitudes about this serious problem in America’s schools.
“This study clearly illustrates the prevalence of bullying and harassment in America’s schools and that students who experience harassment are more likely to miss classes which can impact a student’s ability to learn,” said Kevin Jennings, Founder and Executive Director of GLSEN.
“It also shows how having anti-
harassment policies in schools – particularly those policies that include sexual orientation or gender identity/expression – can be associated with students feeling safer at school.”
The online survey, conducted between January 13 and January 31, 2005, reveals that bullying is common in America’s schools, and that some students are frequent targets for verbal and physical harassment:
- Two-thirds (65%) of teens report that they have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted during the past year because of their perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, race/ethnicity, disability or religion.
- The reason most commonly cited for being harassed frequently is a student’s appearance, as four in ten (39%) teens report that students are frequently harassed for the way they look or their body size.
- The next most common reason for frequent harassment is sexual orientation. One-third (33%) of teens report that students are frequently harassed because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay or bisexual.
The survey finds that LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22% vs. 7%) and 90% of LGBT students (vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year.
“As ‘From Teasing to Torment’ is the first national survey on bullying in America’s schools that includes anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, it is particularly striking that this type of harassment is only second to physical appearance in terms of severity and frequency for students overall, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression,” said Dr. Dana Markow, senior director of the Youth and Education Research Practice at Harris Interactive.
Most (85%) secondary school teachers agree that they have an obligation to ensure a safe learning environment for LGBT students, with nearly three-quarters (73%) strongly endorsing this view. Among those teachers who agree with or are neutral about this obligation, seven in 10 (71%) believe that anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies would be helpful in ensuring a safe learning environment for LGBT students. According to the survey, more than two-thirds (68%) of students say their school has some type of anti-harassment policy, however only about half (48%) of all students say their school has a policy that specifies sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. The survey reveals that having a harassment policy in place that specifically mentions sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is associated with more students feeling safe (95% vs. 83%) and reporting less harassment or fewer negative remarks at their school.
The majority (57%) of students who experience harassment in school, regardless of demographics or reasons for the harassment, never report these incidents of harassment to teachers or other school personnel. Although most teachers report that they would feel comfortable intervening if they observed harassment and many say they frequently have intervened, one in ten (10%) students who do not report these incidents don’t do so because they believe teachers or staff don’t do anything or are powerless to improve the situation. Two-thirds (67%) of LGBT students who have experienced harassment never report such incidents and they are more than twice as likely as non-LGBT students to say that it is because school staff would not do anything or things will continue (23% vs. 9%).
“This survey shows how we need to bridge the gap between the support that teachers say they provide to students and students’ perceptions of teachers’ willingness to take action,” said Jennings. “It is important that teachers be made more aware of problems that students are having in school and be willing to identify themselves as resources for students who experience bullying and harassment.”
The executive summary of "From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America."
Harris Interactive conducted the online survey within the United States on behalf of GLSEN between January 13 and January 31, 2005 among 3,450 students aged 13 to 18 and 1,011 secondary school teachers. For the student data, figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, region, size of place and parents’ education were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. For the teacher data, figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, region, education and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was applied to the teacher’ results to adjust for their propensity to be online.
In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the student data have a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; the teacher data have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Sampling error for the various sub-sample results is higher and varies. These online samples are not probability samples.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, now in its 10th year, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for ALL students. 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 or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
About Harris Interactive®
Harris Interactive Inc. (www.harrisinteractive.com) is the 13th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, perhaps best known for The Harris Poll® and for pioneering and engineering Internet-based research methods. The Rochester, New York–based global research company blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application, conducting proprietary and public research globally to help clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.
Blending science and art, Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital and one of the world’s largest online panels of respondents, with premier Internet survey technology and sophisticated research methods to market leadership through its US, Europe (www.harrisinteractive.com/europe) and Asia offices, its wholly owned subsidiary, Novatris in Paris (www.novatris.com), and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies.