Bullying and the Law
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 25, 2019
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Bullying has become a national epidemic among school-aged children in America, and should be of concern to most schools today. Because bullying can take many forms -- such as verbal, physical, and even mental acts -- it can sometimes go unnoticed by teachers, parents, and administrators alike. Still, because bullying on school campuses can escalate to serious violence and harm to a student, it is especially important for educators, teachers, and parents to understand what bullying is and how to prevent it. This section provides an overview of bullying as well as a breakdown of state anti-bullying laws. Click on the links below to learn more or visit our education law legal answers page.
Bullying is a term that refers to verbal, physical, or psychological attacks by a student on another child with the intent to harass, intimidate, or cause harm to them. Bullying may include verbal threats, physical assault, intimidation, or other disruptive and disorderly activity that impacts fellow students. A number of jurisdictions have passed laws to prevent bullying in schools. Examples of specific behavior that these laws generally construe as bullying include:
- wearing gang paraphernalia;
- spreading rumors and posting harmful or degrading material using social media (called "cyberbullying");
- taunting or making sexual slurs about a person's gender orientation or sexual status;
- name-calling, joking, or making offensive remarks about a person's religion, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status;
- physical acts of bullying such as punching, slapping, or tripping someone.
While federal laws do not directly address bullying, schools or districts may be charged with violations of the First Amendment if the bullying that takes place at their school results in a violation of an individual's right to equal protection. Schools may be subject to significant monetary fines for failing to prevent or punish behavior of their students.
Is Your Child a Bully
Bullying is a national epidemic that impacts children, parents, and teachers. Parents can help by watching for warning signs that their child is being bullied or bullying others. Failing to stop bullying has resulted in severe repercussions for schools, bullies, and even some parents. Although parents are generally not present for bullying they can look for signs that their child may be involved in bullying, including:
- repeated behavioral problems in and out of school
- aggression towards siblings at home
- preoccupation with popularity or social status
- the presence of unexplained money or property
What to Do If Your Child Is Bullied
On the other hand, parents should also be aware of situations where their child is the victim of bullying. Children may be disinclined to speak about their victimization and your observation and communication with your child's school can help determine when they are being victimized, even when they are afraid or unwilling to speak about it. Warning signs of bullying include:
- unexplained bumps, cuts, or bruises
- isolation, both at home or at school
- your child does not enjoy school to the extent they once did
- missed school
- declining school work quality
- depression, moodiness, sadness
- low self-esteem
- appetite changes
- alternate routes to school
- complaints about physical illnesses
- trouble sleeping or recurring nightmares
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