Hostile hallways: the AAUW survey on sexual harassment in America's schools

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Author: Anne L. Bryant
Date: Oct. 1993
From: Journal of School Health(Vol. 63, Issue 8)
Publisher: American School Health Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,857 words

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In 1988, the Board of Directors for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation launched a 10-year research program to examine the effect of school climate on girls. The first two publications derived from the project -- Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America (1991), and The AAUW Report: How Schools Shortchange Girls (1992) -- documented the particularly damaging effects of schooling on the self-esteem of girls, and uncovered troubling evidence confirming widespread prevalence of sexual harassment in schools. Thus, the AAUW Educational Foundation funded a project to examine the nature and extent of sexual harassment in schools. Findings from the study were released in June 1993 as Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America's Schools. This paper highlights key findings from the report.


The AAUW commissioned Louis Harris and Associates to conduct a nationwide survey of sexual harassment in America's schools. The survey instrument asked students about school-related sexual harassment occurring during school-related times such as traveling to and from school, in classrooms and hallways, on school grounds during the day and after school, and on school trips. Sexual harassment was defined as unwanted and unwelcomed sexual behavior that interfered with the student's life. Sexual harassment was clearly differentiated from behavior the student might like or want such as kissing, touching, or flirting.

The questionnaire sought student responses regarding 14 forms of sexual harassment: 1) made sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks; 2) showed, gave, or left you sexual pictures, photographs, illustrations, messages, or notes; 3) wrote sexual messages/graffiti about you on bathroom walls, in locker rooms, etc.; 4) spread sexual rumors about you; 5) said you were gay or lesbian; 6) spied on you as you dressed or showered at school; 7) flashed or "mooned" you; 8) touched, grabbed, or pinched you in a sexual way; 9) pulled at your clothing in a sexual way; 10) intentionally brushed against you in a sexual way; 11) pulled your clothing off or down; 12) blocked your way or cornered you in a sexual way; 13) forced you to kiss him or her; 4) forced you to do something sexual, other than kissing.

The survey was conducted in February and March 1993. Questionnaires were completed by 1,632 public school students in grades 8-11, drawn from 79 schools across the continental United States. The survey protocol, which incorporated a stratified two-stage sampling design, contained representative samples for Hispanic, White, and African-American students. Anonymity was promoted by allowing students to place their completed questionnaires in individual, sealed envelopes. Teachers were asked to leave, or to remain at the front of the classroom during data collection.


Overall, the survey determined that 81% of the students (girls 85%, boys 76%) had been sexually harassed. While the survey findings can be reported and interpreted in...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A14795753