Last week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report: Students’ Experiences with Bullying, Hate Speech, Hate Crimes, and Victimization in Schools, indicating that about one in five students aged 12 to 18 were bullied annually in school and of students who were bullied in school about one in four students experienced bullying related to race, national origin, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.
The report is based on the experiences of students from ages 12 through 18 during the 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2018-19 school years. The study was requested by House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) with a goal of determining how serous the problem is and what is being done by the schools and the US Department of Education. The Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcement of:
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal assistance; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits sex discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.
The report notes how many of these behaviors go underreported by students and schools. As a result, the GAO used a variety of reporting and research sources. The GAO estimates that school officials were aware of students being bullied regularly in about 30 percent of schools and occasionally in about 64 percent of schools; school officials were aware of students being cyberbullied regularly in about 30 percent of schools and occasionally in about 52 percent of schools; and fewer than one-half of all bullied students (44 percent in school year 2018-19) reported the bullying to a teacher or another adult at the school. They also found that middle school students were more likely to be bullied than high school students, and students in schools with 300 or fewer students were more likely to report being bullied than were students in schools with 1,000 or more students.
Of the estimated 5.2 million students bullied, one in four students (an estimated 1.3 million students) experienced bullying related to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. An estimated 1,064 rapes or attempted rapes occurred in 726 schools in school year 2017-18, also finding that sexual assaults other than rape increased by an estimated 17 percent during the same time period.
The GAO estimated that nearly all schools offered students programs, including social emotional learning, peer mediation, and restorative circles, to address hostile behaviors.
According to the report, students who experience hostile behaviors are more likely to experience depression and anxiety; interrupted sleep and eating disorders; loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy; physical health complaints; and decreased academic achievement and school participation. Students who bully others are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults; get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school; engage in early sexual activity; have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults; and be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults.