New York, NY
- GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released From Teasing to Torment: A Profile of School Climate in Pennsylvania,
a report that provides a rare look into student experiences with bullying and harassment in Pennsylvania schools. The results are based on students in Pennsylvania who were surveyed as part of a national study of secondary school students and teachers conducted by Harris Interactive(r) and GLSEN's research department.
"This report highlights that there is a lot of work to be done in Pennsylvania to ensure safe schools for all students," said Kevin Jennings, Founder and Executive Director of GLSEN, 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 Pennsylvania schools have such policies, and why doesn't the state implement comprehensive legislation that protects all of its students?"
Key findings from the report include:
Biased language was frequently heard in Pennsylvania schools
A vast majority of Pennsylvania students reported hearing homophobic remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" (82%), or the expressions "that's so gay" or "you're so gay" (93%) from other students in school.
Sexist remarks and negative comments about someone's gender expression (e.g., saying a male student acts "too feminine") were heard frequently-80% of students heard other students use sexist language, and almost two-thirds (61%) heard remarks regarding gender expression.
Many teachers and other school staff did not intervene when hearing students use biased language. A third or more of Pennsylvania students reported that faculty and other school staff rarely or never intervened when homophobic, racist, or sexist remarks were made in their presence (37%, 34%, and 33%, respectively).
Students heard teachers and other school staff use biased language as well-about a fifth of students heard school staff make sexist (20%) and homophobic (18%) remarks.
Bullying, name-calling, and harassment are serious problems in Pennsylvania schools
Forty-one percent of Pennsylvania students said that bullying, name-calling, and harassment were serious problems in their schools, and less than half (47%) of Pennsylvania students reported that they felt very safe in their schools.
Forty-one percent of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of a personal characteristic, such as their physical appearance or sexual orientation.
Nearly two-thirds (62%) of students reported that they had been verbally harassed in the past year, and nearly one-fifth of students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation (17%) or their gender expression (18%) in the previous year. One-fifth (20%) of students reported that they had been physically harassed or assaulted in the past year.
Comprehensive policies and resources in Pennsylvania schools are lacking
Half (51%) of respondents who experienced harassment or assault at school never reported the incidents to a teacher, principal or other staff person. About a third (30%) of students did not report an incident because they believed that teachers or staff would not address the situation, or that reporting would only make the situation worse. Of those who reported an incident, less than half (47%) said that school authorities took some sort of immediate action was taken to appropriately address the situation.
Only 12% of Pennsylvania students reported that their school had a GSA or other type of club addressing LGBT student issues, which is far lower than the national percentage (22%).
Students at schools with comprehensive anti-harassment policies were more likely to report that school personnel intervened in response to hearing homophobic and racist language. They were also more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault to school personnel than students at schools without such policies.
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 Pennsylvania (with a sample size of 218), Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. 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.