State and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children. Through laws (in their state education codes and elsewhere) and model policies (that provide guidance to districts and schools), each state addresses bullying differently. Find out how your state refers to bullying in its laws and what they require on part of schools and districts.
Bullying, cyber bullying, and related behaviors may be addressed in a single law or may be addressed in multiple laws. In some cases, bullying appears in the criminal code of a state that may apply to juveniles.
In December 2010, the U.S. Department of Education reviewed state laws and identified 11 key components common among many of those laws.
There is no federal law that specifically applies to bullying. In some cases, when bullying is based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion*, bullying overlaps with harassment and schools are legally obligated to address it. Read more about when bullying overlaps with harassment and how to report it to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and then U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Laws and Policies
Bullying laws are laws that aim to prevent or address it when it happens or both. Because they are against bullying, they are also called "anti-bullying laws" for clarity. So far, there are only state laws about bullying, but people have suggested a national law. Bullying laws often focus on schools, which are the site of a large amount of bullying behavior, with bullying being the most problematic during the middle school years (grades 6-8). Bullying laws have pursued different programs and agendas. Laws may or may not criminalize bullying, some preferring to keep the handling of such situations in the realm of families and
schools (when appropriate) rather than the courts. Laws may require reports of bullying by school personnel who witness it, and prescribe responses to bullying
that includes investigation and imposing disciplinary measures, notification for parents, and support and counseling of targets.
- Severe, pervasive or persistent
- Creates a hostile environment at school. That is, it is sufficiently serious that
Which States Have Bullying Laws?
The bullying laws in the United States are undergoing change. As of October,
2010, 45 states had bullying laws, while there were no such laws in the District of
Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, with
New York being one of the most recent to pass legislation. As new states
continue to put bullying laws on the books, states with existing laws review and
revise them. New Jersey, for example, which passed anti-bullying legislation in
2002, had an anti-bullying bill of rights law introduced to its legislature in
October, 2010. The new law provides for the training of public school staff in addressing bullying, intimidation, and harassment, as well as in suicide
Why Are Bullying Laws Controversial?
Some people question whether legislation specifically aimed at bullying adds
anything new to existing laws. While many people are eager to see bullying
addressed, others question whether existing laws about harassment, safety,
violence, and destruction of property are actually sufficient. In addition, many individual schools have felt compelled to come up with bullying plans that they
feel are appropriate to their situation. The particular wording of the bullying law
at the state level could redirect attention from where individual schools have felt
moved to place it based on their experience.
(Source: Bullying Statistics)
Are there federal laws that apply to bullying?
At present, no federal law directly addresses bullying. In some cases, bullying
overlaps with discriminatory harassment when it is based on race, national origin, color,sex, age, disability, or religion. When bullying and harassment overlap,
federally-funded schools (including colleges and universities) have an obligation
to resolve the harassment. When the situation is not adequately resolved, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of
Justice’s Civil Rights Division may be able to help.
No matter what label is used (e.g., bullying, hazing, teasing), schools are
obligated by these laws to address conduct that is:
it interferes with or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit
from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school
- Based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion*
Although the US Department of Education, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not directly cover religion, often religious based harassment is based on
shared ancestry of ethnic characteristics which is covered. The US Department of Justice has jurisdiction over religion under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Source:stopbullying)