Just a Typical Day at SchoolNovember 14, 2011
This post is part of a series focusing on sexual harassment in middle and high school, launched in conjunction with the release of AAUW’s latest research report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, which was supported by the Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle and the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund. Follow @AAUWResearch on Twitter for updates.
Imagine you open the door to a classroom of 30 students. About 14 students in the room will experience sexual harassment in the coming school year, eight girls and six boys. Four of these students will not want to come to school at some point during the school year as a result of sexual harassment. For three students, these feelings will last a short time, but for one student, these negative feelings about school will last “for quite a while.”
Your female students are especially at risk. Assuming 15 girls are in the class, about two girls will have trouble sleeping and three will feel sick to their stomachs as a result of sexual harassment.
In school year 2010–11, this classroom was typical, according to a recent American Association of University Women (AAUW) report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, published earlier this week. As a co-author, I am proud of this new resource, which provides the most in-depth, nationally representative data on this subject in more than a decade. Free copies of the report and methodology documents are available at www.aauw.org.
A few issues struck me in the course of analyzing the data for this report. The first was simply the sheer number of children who have to deal with this often painful and humiliating experience. If this year is anything like last year, nearly half of U.S. students will be sexually harassed at school between the beginning of classes in the fall and the end of the school year in the spring. Much of the sexual harassment will be verbal and in person, but nearly a third of students (30 percent) will experience some form of cyber-harassment. For the most part, cyber-harassment appears to happen in concert with in-person harassment. In terms of negative effects on targeted students, the combination of in-person and cyber-harassment appears to be the most damaging. Students who were harassed online and in person were significantly more likely to report negative effects as a result of their experiences than were students who were harassed only in person.