– GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released a report on bullying and harassment in Illinois schools. The report, From Teasing to Torment: A Report on School Climate in Illinois
, reveals a rare and troubling look at the state of bullying and harassment in Illinois schools.
The results, which come from a sample of Illinois students from a national survey conducted by Harris Interactive and GLSEN’s research department, show a school environment in which more than a third of students (37 percent) said they feel unsafe in school because of one or more personal characteristics, such as their physical appearance or sexual orientation.
"This report shows that in Illinois, much like in most states, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure safe school for all students," said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings, who will read from his recently released memoir Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Chicago at Women and Children First bookstore. "As the recent slew of school violence across the nation shows, addressing the problem of bullying and harassment in Illinois is as important as it has ever been, if not more so."
One important step is creating comprehensive anti-bullying policies in school districts and statewide. When students reported having comprehensive anti-bullying policies, they also reported hearing homophobic remarks such as "that’s so gay" less often.
Additionally, Illinois’ safe school law does not enumerate protected categories such as race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey found that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students reported significantly lower rates of bullying and harassment in states with comprehensive policies.
Key findings from From Teasing to Torment include:
Bullying, name-calling, and harassment are serious problems in Illinois schools
Over a third (38%) of Illinois students said that bullying, name-calling and harassment were serious problems in their schools.
Students reported that physical appearance, sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons other students at their school were bullied or harassed. A substantial percentage of students reported that their peers were frequently bullied or harassed because of their physical appearance (40%), sexual orientation (35%) or gender expression (34%).
Only half (52%) of Illinois students reported that they felt very safe in their schools.
· Over a third (37%) of the students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of one or more personal characteristics, such as their physical appearance or sexual orientation.
Half (52%) of Illinois students reported that they had been verbally harassed and nearly a quarter (23%) of students reported that they had been physically harassed or assaulted in school in the past year.
The majority (59%) of students who experienced harassment and assault at school never reported the incidents to a teacher, principal or other school staff.
Biased language was frequently heard in Illinois schools
A vast majority of Illinois students reported hearing homophobic remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” (74%), or the expressions “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” (83%) 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 also commonly heard – 81% of students heard sexist remarks and 59% heard remarks regarding gender expression.
While less frequent, Illinois students also reported hearing racist (44%) and negative religious (19%) remarks at school.
Intervention by school personnel when hearing students use biased language was not universal. Many Illinois students reported that teachers and other school staff rarely or never intervened when homophobic, racist or sexist remarks were made in their presence (48%, 30% and 29%, respectively).
Students heard biased language from teachers or other school personnel as well – about a fifth (19%) reported hearing school staff make sexist remarks, 12% racist remarks, 11% homophobic remarks and 7% reported hearing negative religious remarks.
LGBT students lacked access to resources and supports.
Less than a quarter (22%) of Illinois students reported that their school had a Gay-Straight Alliance or other type of student club addressing LGBT student issues.
Less than half (45%) of Illinois students reported that they were protected by a school anti-harassment policy that specifically mentioned sexual orientation or
gender identity/expression. Almost a third did not know if their school had a policy of any kind.
Students in schools with GSAs or other supportive clubs reported that teachers and other school staff intervened more often when homophobic remarks were made than students in schools without such clubs.
The frequency of biased remarks such as “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” as well as negative remarks about nontraditional gender expressions was higher at schools without comprehensive anti-harassment policies. For example, 75% of students at schools without comprehensive policies reported that they heard homophobic remarks often or very often from other students, versus 54% of students at schools with comprehensive policies.
To view the entire report, visit http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1859.html
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 12 states. The Illinois sample size was 216. 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.
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.