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Maine Groups Doubt Cast on Bullying Study

Gender rights groups are skeptical over some figures recently compiled by the U.S. Department of Education.

The American Association of University Women, a national women’s education nonprofit, says the Civil Rights Data Collection Report for 2013-2014 found that more than two-thirds of schools and school districts around the country reported zero instances of sexual harassment or gender-based bullying for that period.

In Maine, 66 percent of schools reported zero instances of such harassment.

“My initial reaction to that is there’s simply no possible way that that is accurate,” says Matt Moonen, executive director of Equality Maine.

Moonen says the reported figure stands in stark contrast to similar data collected by other groups such as the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN.

“They found that 8 out of 10 LGBT youth in Maine schools reported being verbally harassed based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and 4 out of 10 reported being physically harassed,” he says.

According to Catherine Hill, vice president of research at AAUW, their own research shows that more than half of girls nationwide in grades 7-12 report that they’ve been sexually harassed at school. Hill says such incidents are clearly missing from the CRDC report.

Maine’s anti-bullying law, passed in 2011, requires schools to report bullying and cyberbullying to the state Department of Education.

A spokesperson for Maine’s Department of Education was not prepared to comment, but said she is having someone look into the data.