Nearly half of students in a nationally representative sample of students in grades seven through 12 reported that they had been subjected to some form of sexual harassment in the 2010-11 school year, and most said it had a negatively impacted them, according to a new study.

The report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, and published by the American Association of University Women, said that girls are far more likely to be harassed, and only a fraction of incidents of sexual harassment are reported to an adult.

Forty-eight percent of students surveyed said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the last school year — in person and/or over the Internet — and 87 percent said it had a negative impact on them.

Among other findings during the 2010-11 school year:

*56 percent of girls reported being sexually harassed in class and/or over the Internet, compared to 40 percent of boys

*18 percent of both girls and boys reported being called gay or lesbian in a negative way

*33 percent of girls, and 24 percent of boys, reported witnessing sexual harassment at school (18 percent of students). And 56 percent reported witnessing it more than once during the year.

*18 percent of boys versus 14 percent of girls said they had sexually harassed other students. And most student who admitted to this behavior — 92 percent of girls and 80 percent of boys — said they had been victims of it themselves.

*44 percent of students who admitted to sexually harassing said it wasn’t a big deal, and 39 percent said they were trying to be funny.

*9 percent of the students — 12 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys — who were victims of harassment reported it to a teacher, counselor or other adult at school

*27 percent of students said they talked about it with parents or family

members, including siblings. Girls were far more likely to talk with parents and other family members than boys, 32 percent versus 20 percent.

*22 percent of girls and 14 percent of boys said that sexual harassment had caused them to have trouble sleeping

*37 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys said sexual harassment had caused them to want to say home from school

*Gender harassment is a significant part of the sexual harassment

problem in schools.

Students who were sexually harassed experienced one of the following, according to the report:

• Having someone make unwelcome sexual comments, jokes,

or gestures to or about you

• Being called gay or lesbian in a negative way

• Being touched in an unwelcome sexual way

• Having someone flash or expose themselves to you

• Being shown sexy or sexual pictures that you didn’t want

to see

• Being physically intimidated in a sexual way

• Being forced to do something sexual

• Being sent unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or pictures or

having someone post them about or of you

• Having someone spread unwelcome sexual rumors about you

Sexual harassment is often seen as form of bullying, though the legal definition is different. Here’s the definition from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights:

“Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,

which can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for

sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of

a sexual nature. Thus, sexual harassment prohibited by Title IX

can include conduct such as touching of a sexual nature; making

sexual comments, jokes, or gestures; writing graffiti or displaying

or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written

materials; calling students sexually charged names; spreading

sexual rumors; rating students on sexual activity or performance;

or circulating, showing, or creating e-mails or Web sites of a

sexual nature.”

The report recommends that :

*all schools create a policy against sexual harassment and ensure that it is publicized and enforced,

*students be educated about what sexual harassment is, and how to respond if they are victims of or witnesses to sexual harassment, and

*school staff be properly trained to know how to help students who they see being harassed or are told were harassed.

The report was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,965 students in seventh through 12th grades who were surveyed in May and June. The students were asked to discuss reactions to their experience with sexual harassment and how it affected them, as well as how they think schools can better respond to it.

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