K-12 Education: Students’ Experiences with Bullying, Hate Speech, Hate Crimes, and Victimization in Schools


What GAO Found

Students expertise a spread of hostile behaviors at faculties nationwide, in keeping with GAO’s evaluation of nationally generalizable surveys of scholars and faculties. About one in 5 college students aged 12 to 18 have been bullied yearly in faculty years 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2018-19. Of college students who have been bullied in faculty yr 2018-19, about one in 4 college students skilled bullying associated to their race, nationwide origin, faith, incapacity, gender, or sexual orientation. About one in 4 of all college students aged 12 to 18 noticed hate phrases or symbols written in their faculties, equivalent to homophobic slurs and references to lynching. Most hostile behaviors additionally elevated in faculty yr 2017-18, in keeping with our evaluation of the college survey. Hate crimes—which mostly focused college students due to their race and nationwide origin—and bodily assaults with a weapon almost doubled (see determine). Sexual assaults additionally elevated throughout the identical interval.

Hostile Behaviors in K-12 Public Schools, School Years 2015-16 to 2017-18

Nearly each faculty used packages or practices to deal with hostile behaviors, and faculties’ adoption of them elevated from faculty yr 2015-16 to 2017-18, in keeping with our evaluation of the college survey. About 18,000 extra faculties applied social emotional studying and about 1,200 extra used in-school suspensions. Additionally, 2,000 extra faculties used faculty useful resource officers (SRO)—profession officers with the power to arrest college students—in faculty yr 2017-18. SROs’ involvement in faculties, equivalent to fixing issues, additionally elevated.

The Department of Education resolved complaints of hostile behaviors sooner in current years, due in half to extra complaints being dismissed and fewer complaints being filed. In the 2019-20 faculty yr, 81 % of such resolved complaints have been dismissed, mostly as a result of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) didn’t obtain consent to reveal the complainant’s id to these they filed the criticism in opposition to. Complaints of hostile behaviors filed with OCR declined by 9 % and 15 %, respectively, in faculty years 2018-19 and 2019-20. Civil rights specialists GAO interviewed mentioned that in current years they turned reluctant to file complaints on college students’ behalf as a result of they misplaced confidence in OCR’s means to deal with civil rights violations in faculties. The specialists cited, in half, Education’s rescission of steering to varsities that clarified civil rights protections, equivalent to these for transgender college students. Since 2021, Education has began reviewing or has reinterpreted a few of this steering.

Why GAO Did This Study

Hostile behaviors, together with bullying, harassment, hate speech and hate crimes, or different forms of victimization like sexual assault and rape, in faculties can negatively have an effect on K-12 college students’ short- and long-term psychological well being, schooling, revenue, and general well-being. According to Education’s steering, incidents of harassment or hate, when motivated by race, coloration, nationwide origin, intercourse (together with sexual orientation and gender id), or incapacity standing can impede entry to an equal schooling. In sure circumstances, these sorts of incidents might violate sure federal civil rights legal guidelines, which Education’s OCR is tasked with implementing in K-12 faculties.

GAO was requested to assessment hostile behaviors in K-12 faculties. This report examines (1) the prevalence and nature of hostile behaviors in K-12 public faculties; (2) the presence of K-12 faculty packages and practices to deal with hostile behaviors; and (3) how Education has addressed complaints associated to those points in faculty years 2010-11 by way of 2019-20.

GAO carried out descriptive and regression analyses on the newest accessible information for 2 nationally generalizable federal surveys: a survey of 12- to 18-year-old college students for college years 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2018-19, and a survey of faculties for college years 2015-16 and 2017-18. GAO additionally analyzed 10 years of civil rights complaints filed with OCR in opposition to faculties; reviewed related federal legal guidelines, rules, and paperwork; and interviewed related federal and nationwide schooling and civil rights group officers. GAO integrated technical feedback from Education as applicable.

For extra info, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or