Commission Holds Bullying and Harassment Hearing

May 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.

Hostile HallwaysAlmost 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:Drawing the Line

Beth Scott By:   |   May 26, 2011


  1. Avatar Missy H. says:

    I don’t want to seem like a downer here, but I truly believe bullying is all a part of growing up. It helps create who you are, what your morals and values are. Don’t get me wrong, too much bullying is not good. But it seems to me the schools aren’t really “teaching” our kids much anymore except how to be “different” and still fit in. I think we need to reform our whole school system. And we need to get the unions out of the equation completely so our kids come first…. not the teachers!

    • Avatar Jill Davidson says:

      Unfortunately, for some students, bullying is not part of growing up, because they don’t survive to adulthood. Gender non-conforming students are frequent targets of harassment. The NCTE survey of 6,500 transgender adults released in February of this year found 41% had attempted suicide, but this number rose to 71% if they had experienced harassment at school. Many left school without graduating. Schools are doing much more teaching of basic skills to a broader swath of the population than has any previous generation. Schools have been subject to reforms throughout the history of common schools – reform has never let up. And why would you want to remove unions from decisions about schools? Why would you remove the professionals who are doing the educating?

      • Avatar missy h says:

        I say remove the unions from the equation because, as you put it, “Schools are doing much more teaching of basic skills to a broader swath of the population than has any previous generation”. Our kids are falling more and more behind the rest of the world as our unionized teachers get paid more and more. These “teachers” aren’t teaching them what they should learn in school. Instead, they are trying to “teach” the kids what is the responsibility of the parent to teach. Teachers need to stick to educating our kids with math, science, etc.

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