New York, NY
– GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released From Teasing to Torment: A Profile of School Climate in Virginia, a report that provides a rare look into student experiences with bullying and harassment in Virginia schools. The results are based on students in Virginia who were surveyed as part of a national study of secondary school students and teachers conducted by Harris Interactive® and GLSEN’s research department.
“This report highlights that there is a lot of work to be done in Virginia to ensure safe schools for all students,” said Kevin Jennings, Founder and Executive Director of GLSEN, and author of the recently released memoir Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son. “With harassment and assault reported to be higher in schools without comprehensive anti-harassment policies, the question is why don’t more Virginia schools have such policies, and why doesn’t the Commonwealth implement comprehensive legislation that protects all of its students?”
Key findings from the report include:
Bullying, name-calling, and harassment are serious problems in Virginia schools
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the students reported that they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year, and a quarter (24%) reported that they had been physically harassed or assaulted.
Only 35% of students surveyed reported feeling very safe at school, while nearly half (47%) said that bullying, name calling and harassment were serious problems at their school.
A third (32%) of students reported feeling unsafe at school because of at least one personal characteristic such as their looks or sexual orientation.
Many respondents reported that other students at their school were frequently bullied or harassed because of their physical appearance (48%), sexual orientation (44%), and gender expression (38%).
Biased language was frequently heard in Virginia schools
A vast majority of Virginia students reported hearing homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke” (74%), or the expressions “that’s so gay,” or “you’re so gay,” (89%) from other students in school.
82% of students heard other students use sexist language, and two-thirds (66%) heard remarks regarding gender expression (e.g., saying a male students acts “too feminine”).
Intervention by school authorities when hearing biased language from students was not as common as should be expected. Over half of Virginia students reported that teachers and other school staff rarely or never intervened when homophobic, racist, or sexist remarks were made in their presence (54%, 52% and 56% respectively).
Comprehensive policies and resources in Virginia schools are lacking
Only half (52%) of Virginia students reported that they were protected by a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that specifically mentioned sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Only 10% of Virginia students reported that their school had a GSA or other type of club addressing LGBT issues, which is lower than the national average (22%).
Students’ reports of verbal and physical harassment and assault were all higher in schools without comprehensive anti-harassment policies. For example, students in schools without these types of policies were twice as likely to report being verbally harassed based on their sexual orientation and were more than four times as likely to have been physically harassed/assaulted because of their physical appearance.
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 Virginia, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. 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 one hundred 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 for the national survey 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). Demographic weights were based on U.S. Census data obtained via the March 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS). For the national survey, a post weight was applied to the student data to adjust for the twelve state oversampling so that the regional distribution reflects the nation as a whole. State-specific data, including that which is presented in this report, does not reflect this postweight.
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.