Sexual Harassment Found in US Schools National Study Reports High Levels of Abuse

Article excerpt

EIGHTY-ONE percent of 8th- through 11th-grade students surveyed in public schools across the United States have been the target of some form of sexual harassment - ranging from sexual comments to physical contact - according to a study released June 2 by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

Called "Hostile Hallways," the study is the first national scientific survey of student sexual harassment. The findings are worse than expected, says Alice McKee, the foundation's president. Eighty-five percent of girls and 76 percent of boys report they have experienced some type of sexual harassment.

"Sexual harassment is an epidemic in the schools today," she says. The survey was conducted in 79 classrooms of randomly selected schools across the US and contains representative samples of about 1,600 white, black, and Hispanic students.

Students were provided with a definition of sexual harassment: "Unwelcome and unwanted sexual behavior that interferes with your life."

They were given a questionnaire asking about harassment during school-related times. Fourteen types of sexual harassment, ranging from verbal to physical, were presented.

The most common form of sexual harassment, reported by 76 percent of girls and 56 percent of boys, included sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks. The second most common form of harassment - touching, grabbing, or pinching in a sexual way - was reported by 65 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys. On the more extreme end, 13 percent of girls and 9 percent of boys said they had been forced to do something sexual other than kissing.

"Sexual harassment runs the gamut - from comments to bathroom rape," says Nan Stein, director of the Sexual Harassment in Schools Project at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.

Ms. Stein, who has been working on the issue since 1979, says sexual harassment in the schools is just as severe as it was 14 years ago. …