Four out of five students–both boys and girls–report they’ve experienced some type of sexual harassment in school, despite a greater awareness of school policies dealing with the issue, according to a new report, “Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School” by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

According to the report, which is based on a national survey of 2,064 public school students in 8th through 11th grades conducted by Harris Interactive, sexual harassment–words and actions–in school happens often, can begin in elementary school, and is very upsetting to both girls and boys:

  • 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys report having ever experienced harassment. For many students, sexual harassment is an ongoing experience: more than 1 in 4 students experience it “often.”
  • 76 percent of students have experienced non-physical harassment, while 58 percent have experienced physical harassment. Although large groups of both boys and girls report experiencing harassment, girls are more likely to report being negatively affected by it.
  • One-third of students fear being sexually harassed in school, despite the fact that there has been a change in awareness of school policies about harassment since 1993. Seven in 10 students say that their school has a policy on sexual harassment, compared to only 26 percent of students in 1993. Nearly all students (96 percent) say they know what harassment is, and boys’ and girls’ definitions do not differ substantially.

“This report shows that we have much more work to do in educating our students and training our teachers and administrators–as early as elementary school–in dealing appropriately with sexual harassment,” said Jacqueline Woods, AAUW executive director.

To follow up this report, AAUW announced that it is forming a partnership with the National Education Association and a task force to address sexual harassment in schools.