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 Texas,” which provides a rare look into student experiences with bullying and harassment, and their attitudes about this serious problem in Texas schools. The results are based on students in Texas who were surveyed as part of a national study of secondary school students and teachers conducted by Harris Interactive® on behalf of GLSEN.
“This study clearly illustrates the prevalence of bullying and harassment in Texas schools,” said Crissy Flores, a parent in Austin, TX. “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 far too common in Texas schools:
- Students report that physical appearance (39%), actual or perceived sexual orientation (35%) and gender expression (29%) are the top three reasons for bullying and verbal harassment happening often or very often in TX schools.
- More than three out of four respondents (76%) said that bullying based on physical appearance and body size occurred at least some of the time and nearly 40% (39.1%) reported that it occurred often or very often.
- Although 7% of respondents identified as LGBT, 64% of all Texas students surveyed reported that students are bullied, called names or harassed at least some of the time at school because they are perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Over one-third (35%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often in their schools.
- Sixty-three percent (63%) of respondents reported that bullying based on gender expression (e.g., a girl who “acts like a boy”), occurred at least some of the time at their school and 29% reported that this occurred quite frequently.
- Homophobic remarks such as “faggot,” “dyke,” or “queer,” were the most frequent derogatory remarks that respondents reported hearing from other students at school, with 79% of survey respondents saying they heard such remarks from students at least some of the time, and five out of ten respondents reported hearing these remarks even more frequently.
Overall, the frequency of bullying reported by Texas students was similar to the national sample with two exceptions. Youth in Texas reported a higher frequency at which students are harassed because of their race/ethnicity (48% vs. 39% reporting at least some of the time) and because of their ability at school (61% vs. 48%).
The majority of Texas students who experience harassment in school never report these incidents of harassment to teachers or other school personnel. Less than one-third (28%) reported telling school personnel some of the time, and only 13% of respondents reported incidents of harassment or assault most or all of the time. Among respondents who did not report the incident, 43% believed it was not serious enough to report (e.g., it was a joke or it only happened one time), 27% believed it would worsen the situation in some way, and 10% handled the situation on their own. Interestingly, 6% of respondents who had been harassed or assaulted in the past year did not report the incident to a teacher or other staff person because they believed that nothing would be done to address the situation.
“The results of this study indicate that there is a lot of work to be done in Texas 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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