Holly Kearl's recent visit in California was a whirlwind as she went to three areas in one weekend: Napa, Berkeley and San Jose. I followed her from Berkeley to San Jose. Holly's presentation on harassment and bullying was both informational and insightful. It was informed by some brilliant research on the part of AAUW and its expert team.
One of the main pieces of information that I gleaned from the lecture was the difference between harassment and bullying.
Whereas harassment pertains to unwanted sexual behavior (in person and online), bullying is a repeated behavior involving an imbalance in power and an intention to harm.
Another important distinction is the extent to which either one has consequences that can be regulated by current laws or future laws. Currently harassment is already on the books as federal legislation via Title IX. Most of us are familiar with this legislation and how it pertains to equal opportunity for women in sports, but it is an important part of the Civil Rights Act as well as Title VII, which specifically deals with harassment. Harassment and its consequences can therefore be argued legally, since the federal law exists.
Bullying on the other hand might be governed by state legislation and has been dealt with in the political arena as policy statements, but it has not as yet become law. For that reason AAUW is advocating for a federal anti-bullying law by supporting the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which was introduced in April 2011 in the House (H.R. 1648) and Senate (S. 506).
Regarding the survey itself, a company titled Knowledge Networks was used as the research vehicle. A random sampling of 2,000 students grades 7-12 were anonymously surveyed in one school year, 2010-2011. The findings were then analyzed and "Crossing the Line" was produced.
Holly shared some of these findings with us as she reviewed the research:
Boys were more likely to say they harassed other students
Most students who admitted to sexually harassing another student were also targets of sexual harassment themselves
Sexual harassment negatively affects girls, resulting in decreased productivity at school and increased absenteeism
Although girls were more likely than boys to report harassment, one-half of students said they did nothing
Gender harassment is a specific part of sexual harassment in schools
Branches may order twenty-five free copies of the full report from aauw.org, if postage and shipping are paid, and a condensed Executive Summary is available in pamphlet format.