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New GLSEN Report on Bullying and Bias
Marketing and Communications Associate
Despite Progress, Bias-based Bullying Remains Significant Problem in U.S. Secondary Schools
New Report Also Finds that Teachers Lack Training on LGBTQ Issues
NEW YORK (September 28, 2016) – Biased remarks, bullying and harassment remain a significant problem in U.S. middle and high schools, according to a report released today by GLSEN, the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of middle and high school students experienced some type of peer victimization in the past school year, and over half (51 percent) of teachers believe that bullying is a significant problem at school.
The report, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, a Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers, includes data from a nationally representative sample of 1,367 U.S. middle and high school students and 1,015 teachers. Data was collected online between January 29 and February 15, 2015 on behalf of GLSEN by Harris Poll. All analyses were conducted by GLSEN. More information about the survey methodology can be found in the report. The report is an update of a survey of secondary school students and teachers conducted in 2005.
“Since 2005, we have seen significant investment in bullying-prevention in the United States, and an unprecedented level of public attention to this serious issue,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director. “It is encouraging to see that we’re making progress. However, it is absolutely clear that we must pay more focused attention to some of the most persistent forms of bias in order to continue to move the needle and improve school climate in America.”
Students and teachers report that, in general, biased remarks from students became less common between 2005 and 2015, and bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression also decreased. However, bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation is still one of the most common types of bullying in school according to students, second only to that based on appearance or body size.As a result, LGBTQ students are more than twice as likely to have skipped school out of fear in the past month as their non-LGBTQ peers and three times as likely to say that they do not plan to graduate.
The study also reveals concerning trends in biased language and bullying and harassment based on other personal characteristics. Between 2005 and 2015, racist remarks from both students and educators became more common, according to students. Also, students report that bullying based on academic ability became more frequent at school.
Teacher reports indicate that they are not receiving sufficient support to address anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment. Less than a third (33 percent) of teachers report having professional development on LGB issues and less than a quarter (24 percent) on transgender issues. Only half of teachers report engaging in any LGBT-supportive practices at school, and only a small portion include LGBT content in their curriculum (15 percent) or take on public or official roles, such as advocating for LGBT-inclusive policies (9 percent). Also, teachers report feeling least comfortable addressing bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression compared to other types of bias-based bullying.
“We must redouble our efforts to improve school climate for all students,” said Dr. Joseph Kosciw, GLSEN’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer, “including by providing educators the training and resources they need to support LGBTQ students in their classrooms.”
The report was funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We believe all students deserve to reach their maximum potential, and are proud of our long commitment to GLSEN and its work to improve school environments for LGBTQ youth,” said John Lake, LGBT Segment Leader for Wells Fargo. “By supporting research like this, we can help GLSEN identify the greatest needs of LGBTQ youth and focus the necessary resources required to address them in ways that are most effective and impactful.”
The report provides significant detail about the range of student and teacher experiences of and responses to incidents of bias, and includes a number of recommendations from GLSEN about measures needed to improve school climate for all students, including:
- Increase investment in improving the conditions for learning in our schools, including efforts to eliminate bias-based bullying, to enable educators to do their best work and give all students the best chance for success;
- Continue our drive to increase the presence of critical LGBTQ-affirming supports in all schools across the United States, in order to reduce the experience gap that continues to separate LGBTQ students from their peers;
- Provide educators with the adequate training and preparation to increase support and affirmation of all of our schools’ most marginalized students, including transgender students and students of color.
The full report can be found at glsen.org/teasingtotorment.
GLSEN champions safe and affirming schools for all students. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach tens of thousands of K-12 schools across the United States, and our network of chapters brings GLSEN’s expertise to their local communities. GLSEN's progress and impact have won support for our work at all levels of education in the United States and sparked an international movement to ensure equality for LGBTQ students and respect for all in schools. For more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, public education, research and educator training programs, please visit glsen.org.