Two-Thirds of Public Schools Reported Zero Incidents of Sexual Harassment in 2013–14
AAUW has reviewed the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) for 2013–14 to find out how often sexual harassment and gender-based bullying are reported in U.S. public schools. Analyzing the data by local education agency (LEA) — typically a public school district, charter school, or system of charter schools — AAUW found that more than two-thirds (67 percent) of LEAs in the United States reported zero allegations of sexual harassment or bullying during the 2013–14 school year.
The Problem with the Findings
If the CRDC report is to be believed, that means two-thirds of schools have eliminated sexual harassment and bullying completely. Many reports, including AAUW’s research, refute this.
The AAUW report Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment in Schools found that nearly half of students grades 7–12 (and more than half of girls) reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in the previous school year. A 2013 Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network survey of LGBT students in middle and high school found that 74 percent were verbally harassed in the previous year because of their sexual orientation and 55 percent were verbally harassed because of their gender expression. Based on these findings, we can infer that schools included in the CRDC data are vastly underestimating the frequency of sexual harassment and bullying based on sex in U.S. schools.
This 2013–14 release is the third collection of harassment data from the CRDC. AAUW believes that schools have had ample time to correct and adjust their policies and procedures to ensure accurate reporting. Whatever reasoning they may cite for reporting zeros, it’s likely that many of these schools simply haven’t taken the steps necessary to educate the school community about what to do when sexual harassment occurs. And failing to report these incidents is especially harmful to girls and LGBT students, who are disproportionately affected.
Rates of zero reporting vary from state to state. For example, 88 percent of LEAs in Florida and 80 percent of LEAs in Arizona reported zero incidents of sexual harassment, whereas 25 percent of LEAs in West Virginia reported zeros. And the numbers themselves also require scrutiny: Some LEAs contain hundreds of schools, whereas others consist of only a single charter school.
What We Can Do
The information provided in the CRDC is vital to promoting Title IX compliance in local communities and investigating where schools don’t appear to be following the law. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recommended that Title IX coordinators train relevant staff about how information on sex-based harassment should be reported under the CRDC and work to ensure the accuracy of the reporting. Parents, students, and advocates should locate their local school’s Title IX coordinator and bring these findings to their attention.
Furthermore, states and the federal government must provide adequate funding for this important work. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) have introduced the Patsy Mink Gender Equity in Education Act of 2016 (GEEA). The proposed legislation provides more resources, training, and technical assistance to support gender equity work in our schools and establishes an Office of Gender Equity in the U.S. Department of Education to coordinate activities within the department and among other federal agencies. GEEA also supports Title IX coordinators by providing annual training and competitive grants for gender equity programs in K–12 schools, colleges, local educational agencies, or states.
The zeros don’t tell the truth about what’s happening in schools. That’s why AAUW members across the country are already calling on their governors to correct these erroneous numbers and confront the sexual harassment crisis in K–12 schools.
Use the table below to find out what percentage of districts in your state reported zero allegations of sexual harassment.
2013–14 CRDC Data — Allegations of Sexual Harassment by District
|State||Number of Districts||Percent of Districts Reporting Zero Allegations of Sex Harassment|
|Source: U.S. Department of Education (ED) 2013–14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), ocrdata.ed.gov|
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