According to a recent GLSEN research report, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers, the vast majority (74 percent) of middle and high school students experienced some form of victimization at school in the past year.
In general, the frequency of bullying and harassment has trended downward over the past decade, but students still experience victimization far too often. And, as uncertainty about our country’s future has many school communities concerned, the need to stop bullying in our nation’s schools is as important as ever.
Verbal harassment, including name-calling, tends to be the most pervasive form of peer victimization in secondary schools across the country. In 2015, half of middle and high school students were verbally harassed about their appearance/body size, one in three due to their race/ethnicity, and about one in five because of their gender expression or their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
Further, biased remarks are still pervasive in schools. For example, almost half of secondary students reported hearing sexist remarks and homophobic remarks often or very often in school, and one-third reported hearing racist remarks and negative remarks about one’s ability just as frequently.
Previous GLSEN research shows that name-calling and biased remarks are pervasive in elementary schools, too. Three-quarters (75 percent) of elementary school students reported that students at their school were called names, made fun of, or bullied with at least some regularity (i.e., all the time, often, or sometimes), and this was true for over half (56 percent) of students that did not conform to traditional gender norms. Half of teachers (48 percent) reported that they heard students make sexist remarks at least sometimes at their school and a quarter (26 percent) of students heard homophobic remarks this frequently. Additionally, one in four students (26 percent) and one in five teachers (21 percent) heard students say bad or mean things about people because of their race or ethnic background at least sometimes.
Do words have power? Name-calling and other types of biased language are often dismissed as being harmless, but we know that this is not the case.
And we know how to help. This week is GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, a week when educators and students come together to challenge bullying and name-calling in our communities. For over a decade, educators have used GLSEN’s lesson plans, class activities and other resources in elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. Developed for No Name-Calling Week, but applicable at any time of the year, these resources are rooted in the message of respecting differences – a message that is perhaps more important now than ever.
Evaluation studies indicate that GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week and other similar initiatives can help stop name-calling in schools. For example, one report showed that the percentage of students who reported witnessing name-calling and bullying decreased after their school participated in No Name-Calling Week.
It’s not too late to participate this year or use NNCW resources throughout the year. You can register now for more information and use GLSEN resources to take action to end name-calling in our schools.
David Danischewski is the Research Assistant at GLSEN.