Commission Holds Bullying and Harassment HearingMay 26, 2011
On Friday, May 13, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held Peer-to-Peer Violence and Bullying: Examining the Federal Response, a daylong public hearing. Participants looked at bullying and other types of violence in which students are targeted due to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or perceived orientation.
AAUW is pleased that the commission held a hearing on this important and timely issue. We support policies and programs that address relational aggression, bullying, and harassment to ensure students’ overall health, safety, and well-being. Simply put, children cannot learn if they don’t feel safe.
Almost a decade ago, AAUW’s research revealed that 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys reported experiencing sexual harassment, with over one in four experiencing harassment “often.” More recent research shows that bullying affects nearly one in three American children in grades six through 10. The Girl Scout Research Institute reports that girls in particular are concerned about bullying. One-third of girls surveyed considered speaking or participating in class a threat to their emotional safety.
Bullying and harassment significantly affect GPAs, school attendance, dropout rates, and the likelihood of obtaining a postsecondary education. In addition, bullying and harassment can lead to even greater safety problems. Many high-profile cases of school shootings have involved students who were bullied and harassed in school. Whether based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, or any other characteristic, bullying and harassment interfere with students’ ability to learn.
To address this issue, the U.S. Department of Education issued an opinion letter in October clarifying that bullying can be a Title IX (discrimination based on sex), Title VI (discrimination based on race, color, or national origin), or Section 504 (discrimination based on disability) violation. Although the letter reminded schools that they could be held responsible for violating students’ rights if they failed to recognize and address discriminatory harassment or treatment, many loopholes remain. Because of this, AAUW supports the adoption and enforcement of federal law to deter and address bullying and harassment, which will help ensure a safe learning environment for all students.
If you’d like to learn more about this issue, join us for AAUW’s 2011 National Convention panel, Safe Schools: Bullying and Sexual Harassment in America’s Middle Schools. Additionally, the AAUW website offers excellent tools for students, administrators, parents, or anyone interested in making campuses safer for students:
- AAUW’s Harassment-Free Hallways: How to Stop Sexual Harassment in School report
- Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus — the most recent nationally representative survey on sexual harassment at college campuses
- Campus Sexual Assault Program in a Box — an online guide to help you organize projects to raise awareness about sexual assault on your local campus
- AAUW’s Title IX compliance resources
- AAUW’s campus sexual harassment resources
- AAUW’s position on Title IX
- AAUW’s position on sexual harassment