From guest blogger Nirvi Shah:
Analyzing new data from the federal Education Department, the American Association of University Women has found that 14 of the 20 largest school districts in the nation reported no incidences of bullying or harassment.
In particular, the report found that the districts reported no allegations of sexual harassment, no disciplinary actions as a result of bullying or harassment on the basis of sex, or no students who reported being bullied or harassed on the basis of sex.
“These reports of no sexual harassment and bullying happening in a school district are impossible to believe,” AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman said. “It just does not sync with what we know to be the unfortunate reality for many school children in this nation.”
Another AAUW report, “Crossing the Line” Sexual Harassment at School,” noted that nearly half of all surveyed students in middle and high school reported they had been harassed during the 2010-11 school year. About a third of girls and a quarter of boys said they had witnessed sexual harassment at school.
The Civil Rights Data Collection, conducted about every two years by the Education Department’s office for civil rights, most recently asked districts for information about the 2009-10 school year. The data includes 7,000 school districts—about 85 percent of the country’s public school students. The collection was the largest to date, and districts had never been asked questions about bullying and harassment before. They were also asked for the first time about incidents of restraining and secluding students.
The Education Department said that any time there are new reporting requirements, there will be imperfect reporting. They hope the data will become more accurate the next time around. And at least two of the largest districts—New York and Chicago—are planning to update some of their data.
The AAUW praised the office for civil rights for asking districts for the bullying and harassment data, but the group cautioned schools against not reporting it accurately.
“The district administrators and school Title IX coordinators might erroneously feel that by precisely reporting sexual harassment and bullying, they are admitting a school climate problem,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations. “But transparency is a first step toward understanding sexual harassment in our schools and is necessary to make schools a safer place for all students to learn.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.