Three-Fourths of Schools Report Zero Incidents of Sexual Harassment in Grades 7-12

October 24, 2017

AAUW and other organizations have long been skeptical of schools’ low reporting rates when it comes to sexual harassment and bullying. AAUW recently revisited the 2013–14 data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) to further examine differences in reported rates by state and differences in the rates at which girls and boys report sexual harassment. The analysis revealed that more than three-fourths (79 percent) of all public schools reported zero incidents of sexual harassment. If these numbers are accurate, 79 percent of schools have zero students coming forward to report cases of sexual harassment — despite many research reports providing evidence that this outcome is statistically impossible.

What the Data Reveal

AAUW’s analysis looked specifically at public schools with students in grades 7–12. These schools were selected in order to compare data with AAUW’s groundbreaking 2011 research report Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, which analyzed data from a survey of students in the same age group. Crossing the Line found that nearly half (48 percent) of students surveyed had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past school year, with nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) of those students saying that the harassment had a negative impact on them.

While at a national level more than three-fourths of all schools reported zero incidents of sexual harassment, the rate of zero-reporting varied across states. For example, in Florida and Hawaii 98 percent of schools reported zero incidents of sexual harassment, but in Vermont only 46 percent of schools reported zero incidents.

The schools whose numbers of allegations AAUW analyzed reported about 47,400 sexual harassment incidents for which the demographic information of the target of the harassment was recorded. The CRDC found that only 0.17 percent of enrolled students reported experiencing sexual harassment, a number drastically lower than the 48 percent of students who reported experiencing sexual harassment in Crossing the Line. Of those reported incidents about 58 percent of targets of harassment were girls (27,700) even though they make up only 49 percent of the 28 million students enrolled at these schools. In the CRDC data about 0.20 percent of girls were recorded as targets of sexual harassment versus 0.14 percent of boys, making girls .06 percent more likely than boys to be the targets of harassment. The gender ratio of victims of reported school sexual harassment found by the CRDC is similar to the ratio reported in Crossing the Line, which stated that girls were 16 percent more likely than boys to be sexually harassed in grades 7–12.

Schools’ Reported Allegations of Sexual Harassment, by State

Reported Allegations Zero Allegations Total Schools Percent Zeroes
Alabama 159 556 715 78%
Alaska 29 314 343 92%
Arizona 279 890 1,169 76%
Arkansas 97 380 477 80%
California 984 3,781 4,765 79%
Colorado 87 1,069 1,156 92%
Connecticut 142 385 527 73%
Delaware 17 92 109 84%
District of Columbia 13 82 95 86%
Florida 30 1,935 1,965 98%
Georgia 160 955 1,115 86%
Hawaii 2 114 116 98%
Idaho 94 257 351 73%
Illinois 752 1,458 2,210 66%
Indiana 160 620 780 79%
Iowa 175 489 664 74%
Kansas 148 523 671 78%
Kentucky 184 533 717 74%
Louisiana 53 630 683 92%
Maine 79 225 304 74%
Maryland 96 510 606 84%
Massachusetts 250 528 778 68%
Michigan 435 1,472 1,907 77%
Minnesota 278 810 1,088 74%
Mississippi 67 438 505 87%
Missouri 297 829 1,126 74%
Montana 75 373 448 83%
Nebraska 97 362 459 79%
Nevada 88 191 279 68%
New Hampshire 103 131 234 56%
New Jersey 479 644 1,123 57%
New Mexico 76 321 397 81%
New York 891 1,629 2,520 65%
North Carolina 211 1,044 1,255 83%
North Dakota 39 210 249 84%
Ohio 244 1,618 1,862 87%
Oklahoma 165 901 1,066 85%
Oregon 237 456 693 66%
Pennsylvania 323 982 1,305 75%
Rhode Island 31 81 112 72%
South Carolina 128 434 562 77%
South Dakota 34 404 438 92%
Tennessee 236 613 849 72%
Texas 343 3,546 3,889 91%
Utah 125 287 412 70%
Vermont 85 71 156 46%
Virginia 131 655 786 83%
Washington 313 790 1,103 72%
West Virginia 116 189 305 62%
Wisconsin 258 860 1,118 77%
Wyoming 32 130 162 80%
U.S. Total 9,927 36,797 46,724 79%

 

What We Must Do

Harassment or bullying policies and a Title IX coordinator are both associated with a higher likelihood of students coming forward to report incidents of sexual harassment in schools. Sixty-seven percent of the local educational agencies (LEAs; usually a public school district or a public charter system) with a harassment or bullying policy had reported zero incidents of sexual harassment across all schools compared with 80 percent of LEAs without a policy. Similarly, 67 percent of LEAs with a Title IX coordinator reported zero incidents of sexual harassment across all schools compared with 80 percent of LEAs without a coordinator. In other words, schools that have Title IX coordinators and bullying and harassment policies are providing students with the resources and support they need to come forward, increasing the likelihood of reporting at higher rates. AAUW continues to call for rigorous enforcement of Title IX, which mandates that at a minimum schools have harassment or bullying policies and Title IX coordinators in place. Only with the full enforcement of Title IX will schools begin to provide full transparency so that students can receive equitable access to education.

Furthermore, states and the federal government must continue to ensure that Title IX coordinators receive the necessary funding and support to ensure schools are complying with the law and addressing sexual harassment. The Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA) of 2017, introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), takes the necessary steps to provide more resources, training, and technical assistance to support gender equity work in our schools. Title IX coordinators provide critical leadership and support in ensuring equal opportunity in education for all students and it is time Congress supported their critical endeavors.

The reports of zero cases of sexual harassment doesn’t begin to tell the whole truth about what’s happening to one of our most vulnerable populations in public schools across the country, but it does tell us that we must work to change the school environment for students immediately. Use the above table to find out what percentage of schools in your state reported zero allegations of sexual harassment and tell your members of Congress to cosponsor the GEEA and strengthen Title IX.


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Two-Thirds of Public Schools Reported Zero Incidents of Sexual Harassment in 2013–14

Read more about AAUW’s analysis of data collection from schools.

Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School

Find out what students said when asked about sexual harassment in school.

Pamela Yuen By:   |   October 24, 2017