Sa f e Sc h o o l S Re S e a R c h BR i e f 5
Th e ec o n o m i c co S T S o f Bu l l y i n g a T Sc h o o l
More than 200,000 students in California each year report being bullied based on actual or perceived sexual
orientation based on the 2001-2002 California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) – that is 7.5% of students in the
7th, 9th, and 11th grades. This harassment is linked to risk behavior, poor grades, and emotional distress for
students. These personal costs are clearly important to individual students, but what are the economic costs
of harassment for the school system?
Data from the 2001-2002 CHKS also show that of the students who report harassment based on actual or
perceived sexual orientation, 27% said that they missed school at least one day during the past 30 days
because they felt unsafe. We use the California Department of Education’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA)
statistics to estimate the economic costs, or the unrealized income that California school districts would
have, if bias-motivated harassment were eliminated from schools. We also present information about the
legal costs of bias-motivated harassment based on recent legal action against unsafe California schools.
Harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation
costs California school districts at least $39.9 million each year.
Each year, nearly 109,000 school absences at the middle and high school levels in California are due to
harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. Based on the state's school expenditures over
a nine-month school calendar year, the cumulative cost to school districts in the State of California is an
estimated minimum of $39.9 million each year due to school absences when students feel unsafe to attend
school due to fear of being bullied based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
Legal action against unsafe California schools
In addition to the costs to districts of school absences due to feeling unsafe, several recent legal cases in
California highlight the costs to school districts when students take legal action because they have expe-
rienced harassment or discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation and have felt
unsafe at school.
Flores v. Morgan Hill Unified School District (N.D.Cal. 2003) 324 F.3d 1130: Suit brought on
behalf of six former students who were subjected to daily harassment and threats of physi-
cal violence and actual physical violence on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual
orientation and gender. Resolution: $1,100,000 settlement.
Massey v. Banning Unified School District (C.D.Cal. 2003) 256 F. Supp. 2d 1090: Eighth
grade student alleged she was prohibited from attending physical education class on the
basis of her sexual orientation. Resolution: $45,000 settlement.
Gay-Straight Alliance Network and Loomis v. Visalia Unified School District (E.D.Cal. 2002,
No. 1:00-CV-06616-OWW-LJO): Student plaintiff, alleged verbal harassment and name
calling by teachers and students, spit on in hallway, put in independent study program
(thereby losing ability to attend any U.C. school), subjected to sexually suggestive touch-
ing. Resolution: $130,000 settlement.
Ray v. Antioch (N.D.Cal. 2000) 107 F. Supp. 2d 1165: Plaintiff was harassed, threatened,
insulted, taunted and abused based on perpetrators’ perceptions of his sexual orientation
and because his mother’s identification as transgender, beaten by another student causing
concussion, hearing impairment, severe and permanent headache, psychological injury,
urine soaked towels thrown on him. Resolution: Undisclosed financial settlement.
O.H. v. Oakland (N.D.Cal, April 17, 2000, No. C-99-5123 JCS) 2000 WL 33376299: Harassment,