New Survey Illustrates Severity of Problem, and Identifies Frequent Targets of Verbal and Physical Harassment
New York, NY – GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released “From Teasing to Torment: A Report on School Climate in Florida,” which provides a rare look into student experiences with bullying and harassment, and their attitudes about this serious problem in Florida schools. The results are based on students in Florida from a national survey of secondary school students and teachers conducted by Harris Interactive.
“This study clearly illustrates the prevalence of bullying and harassment in Florida schools,” said Nadine Smith of Equality Florida. “It also shows how having anti-harassment policies in schools – particularly those policies that include specific categories of students – can be associated with students feeling safer at school.”
Results from the survey demonstrate that bullying is common in Florida schools, and the basis for which students are frequent targets of verbal and physical harassment:
- Less than half (43%) of the Florida students said they felt very safe in their schools, and nearly a tenth (7%) reported that they either felt not very safe or not at all safe.
- Overall, half of Florida students (51%) reported that they were verbally harassed in school in the previous year. One-fifth (21%) of the students reported that they had been physically harassed or assaulted.
- The vast majority of Florida students reported that they heard sexist language (77%) and homophobic language (76%) at least some of the time, and almost a quarter of the students reported that they heard these comments very often. Sexist and homophobic remarks were heard significantly more often than racist or negative religious remarks.
- Sixty-six percent (66%) of respondents said that bullying based on physical appearance and body size occurred at least some of the time and 35% reported that it occurred often or very often. Sixty-one percent (61%) of respondents reported that students are bullied, called names or harassed at least some of the time at school because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and one-third (33%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often in their schools.
- Nearly 90% of Florida students reported hearing comments such as “that’s so gay,” or “you’re so gay,” in which the word “gay” is used to mean stupid or worthless.
- The vast majority of students said that racist (90%), homophobic (88%), and sexist (83%) remarks were used at least some times when teachers were present, and many students reported that teachers and staff did not intervene during these incidents.
The majority of Florida students who experience harassment in school never report these incidents of harassment to teachers or other school personnel. 59% said that they never reported the incident(s) to a teacher, principal or other school staff member. Among students who reported at least one incident, 19% said that school personnel did not take steps to correct the problem or ensure that it would not happen again.
“The results of this study indicate that there is a lot of work to be done in Florida to ensure that all students can learn in a safe environment,” said Kevin Jennings, Founder and Executive Director of GLSEN. “State-level safe school legislation that provides for specific categories must be adopted, and teachers and other school staff must go through appropriate training to assess and respond to incidents of verbal or physical harassment.”
Student interviews were conducted online 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 several states including Florida. A total of 195 respondents attended schools in Florida at the time of the survey. Interviews averaged 15 minutes and were conducted between January 13 and January 31, 2005. Sample was drawn from the Harris Poll Online (HPOL) multimillion member online panel of cooperative respondents from over 100 countries. Invitations for this study were emailed to a selected sample of the database identified as residing in the United States and being a student between the ages of 13 and 18. Data were weighted to reflect the national population of children ages 13 to 18 for key demographic variables (gender, age, race and ethnicity, size of place, region, and parent’s education). A post weight was applied to the student data to adjust for the 12 state oversampling so that the regional distribution reflects the nation as a whole. Demographic weights were based on U.S. Census data obtained via the March 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS).
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender 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 or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
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