Hate Words in School Setting Increasingly Target Race, Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation

It has been estimated that 160,000 teens nationwide skip school every day because of bullying.  Words of hate are a reason why. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education indicates that among students ages 12 through 18 who reported being called a hate-related word at school, the percentage of students called a gender-based hate word decreased from 2001 to 2013, while the percentages of those students called race-, ethnically-, and sexual orientation-based hate words increased.

The report found that:

  • The percentage of students who were called hate words associated with race was greater in 2013 (50 percent), as compared to 2001 (34 percent).
  • The percentage of students who reported being called ethnically based hate words was greater in 2013 (29 percent), as compared to 2001 (22 percent).
  • The percentage of students who reported being called a hate word associated with sexual orientation was greater in 2013 (16 percent), as compared to 2001 (10 percent).
  • The percentage of students who were called gender-based hate words was lower in 2013 (15 percent), as compared to 2001 (23 percent).

hate-wordThe U.S. Department of Education July 2016 Data Point report from the National Center for Education Statistics includes data from the School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, a nationally representative sample survey of students ages 12 through 18, which were used to analyze trends in hate-related words. The SCS study is completed every other year.

In the study, students were asked if they had been called a hate-related word in the school building, on school property, on the school bus, or going to or from school, or if they had seen hate-related graffiti in school. Specifically, students were asked if during the school year anyone called them an insulting or bad name at school having to do with their race, religion, ethnic background or national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation (hate-related words). Students were also asked if they had seen any hate-related words or symbols (graffiti) written in school classrooms, school hallways, or outside of the school building.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has reported this year that “the gains made by years of anti-bullying work in schools have been rolled back in a few short months,” due to comments made as part of the Presidential campaign.  “Teachers report that students have been ‘emboldened’ to use slurs, engage in name-calling and make inflammatory statements toward each other,” explaining that “students have been emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric in the campaign. Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.”

The federal government’s stopbullying.gov website defines bullying actions to include “making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”  The Bullying Prevention and Response Training and Continuing Education Online Program develschool-wordsoped by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration notes that “indirect bullying” includes “rumor spreading or encouraging others to exclude a peer.” Bullying is described as “a public health problem and requires a coordinated community response.”

“Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name‐calling” the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights pointed out in 2010 correspondence to the nation’s schools from Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Russlynn Ali. The information provided pointed out that such behavior “fosters a climate of fear and disrespect that can seriously impair the physical and psychological health” of those subjected to it, and can “create conditions that negatively affect learning, thereby undermining the ability of students to achieve their full potential.”

The SPLC highlights the impact on students: “Every student, from preschoolers up through high school, is aware of the tone, rhetoric and catchphrases of this particular campaign season. Students are hearing conversations at home. They’re chatting, posting and joking on social media. Whether teachers decide to bring it into the classroom or not, kids are talking about it, modeling their behavior on that of political candidates and bringing heightened emotion to school along with their backpacks.”