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Anti-Bullying Policies - Part 1

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The Department of Education highlights components found in current state laws on bullying. States and local school districts can use these examples as technical assistance in drafting effective anti-bullying laws, regulations, and policies.

Anti-Bullying Policies:

 Examples of Provisions in State Laws


In response to requests for assistance by state and local officials, educators, and policymakers, we summarize below examples of key components of state anti-bullying laws.  This document serves as technical assistance for those stakeholders looking to develop or revise anti-bullying legislation or policies.  The Department has organized the key components into eleven categories for convenience.  We include citations to state laws that illustrate the key components we identified, but we do not endorse any particular laws.   

Additional examples are included at the end of the document, but these citations are not intended to be comprehensive.  Many other state and local laws and policies may provide helpful guidance on developing effective anti-bullying policies.  As part of our technical assistance effort to disseminate useful information on this important topic, we welcome other examples of laws and policies that may be working effectively to address bullying in schools.  States and local educational agencies (LEAs) should seek the guidance of state and local legal officials to ensure that the legislation is consistent with all applicable federal and state laws.  The Department also plans to release a compendium of all current state laws and a study of their implementation.  

The following are examples of components found in current state laws on bullying:

I.          Purpose Statement

·         Outlines the range of detrimental effects bullying has on students, including impacts on student learning, school safety, student engagement, and the school environment.

·         Declares that any form, type, or level of bullying is unacceptable, and that every incident needs to be taken seriously by school administrators, school staff (including teachers), students, and students’ families.

·         Example[i]:

o   Oklahoma:  Okla. Stat. Ann. Tit. 70, § 24-100.3 (2009):  “The Legislature finds that bullying has a negative effect on the social environment of schools, creates a climate of fear among students, inhibits their ability to learn, and leads to other antisocial behavior.  Bullying behavior has been linked to other forms of antisocial behavior, such as vandalism, shoplifting, skipping and dropping out of school, fighting, and the use of drugs and alcohol. . . .  Successful programs to recognize, prevent, and effectively intervene in bullying behavior have been developed and replicated in schools across the country. These schools send the message that bullying behavior is not tolerated and, as a result, have improved safety and created a more inclusive learning environment.”

II.       Statement of Scope

·        Covers conduct that occurs on the school campus, at school-sponsored activities or events (regardless of the location), on school-provided transportation, or through school-owned technology or that otherwise creates a significant disruption to the school environment.

·        Example[ii]:

o   Indiana:  Ind. Code Ann. § 20-33-8-13.5 (b) (2010), Disciplinary Rule Requirements:  “The discipline rules [related to bullying]…must apply when a student is:  (1) on school grounds immediately before or during school hours, immediately after school hours, or at any other time when the school is being used by a school group; (2) off school grounds at a school activity, function, or event; (3) traveling to or from school or a school activity, function or event; or (4) using property or equipment provided by the school.”

III.     Specification of Prohibited Conduct

·         Provides a specific definition of bullying that includes a clear definition of cyberbullying.  The definition of bullying includes a non-exclusive list of specific behaviors that constitute bullying, and specifies that bullying includes intentional efforts to harm one or more individuals, may be direct or indirect, is not limited to behaviors that cause physical harm, and may be verbal (including oral and written language) or non-verbal.  The definition of bullying can be easily understood and interpreted by school boards, policymakers, school administrators, school staff, students, students’ families, and the community.

·         Is consistent with other federal, state and local laws.  (For guidance on school districts’ obligations to address bullying and harassment under federal civil rights laws, see the Dear Colleague Letter:  Harassment and Bullying, issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights on October 26, 2010, available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.pdf.)

·         Prohibited Conduct also includes:

(1)   Retaliation for asserting or alleging an act of bullying.

(2)   Perpetuating bullying or harassing conduct by spreading hurtful or demeaning material even if the material was created by another person (e.g., forwarding offensive e-mails or text messages).

·         Examples[iii] [iv]:

o   Florida:  Fla. Stat. Ann. 1006.147(3) (2010):  “(a) ‘Bullying’  means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve:  (1) Teasing; (2) Social exclusion; (3) Threat; (4) Intimidation; (5) Stalking; (6) Physical violence; (7) Theft; (8) Sexual, religious, or racial harassment; (9) Public humiliation; or (10) Destruction of property. . . . (d) The definitions of ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ include: (1) Retaliation against a student or school employee by another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment…[and] (2) Perpetuation of [bullying or harassing] conduct … by an individual or group with intent to demean, dehumanize, embarrass, or cause physical harm to a
student. . . .”

o   Kansas:  Kan. Stat. Ann.  § 72-8256.C.2 (2009):  “‘Cyberbullying’ means bullying by use of any electronic communication device through means including, but not limited to, e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, blogs, mobile phones, pagers, online games and websites.”

IV.    Enumeration of Specific Characteristics

·         Explains that bullying may include, but is not limited to, acts based on actual or perceived characteristics of students who have historically been targets of bullying, and provides examples of such characteristics.

·         Makes clear that bullying does not have to be based on any particular characteristic. 

·         Examples[v]:

o   North Carolina:   N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-407.15(a) (2010):  “Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”

o     Washington:  Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.300.285.2 (2010):  “Nothing in this section requires the affected student to actually possess a characteristic that is a basis for the…bullying.”

[i] For additional examples of purpose statements, see:  105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/27-23.7.a (2010); Iowa Code § 280.28.1 (2008); Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-424 (2010); Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 388.132 (2009); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:37.13 (2010); Or. Rev. Stat. § 339.353 (2009); Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-1014 (2010); W. Va. Code Ann. § 18-2C-1 (2009).


[ii] For additional examples of statements of scope, see:  Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514.2 (2009); Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-751.4 (2010); 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/27-23.7.a (2010); 2010 Mass. Adv. Legis. Serv. Ch. No. 92-2010 (Lexis Nexis 2010); Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-424 (2010).


[iii] For additional examples of bullying definitions, see:  Del. Code Ann. Tit. 14, § 4112D.a (2010); Kan. Stat. Ann. § 72-8256 (2009);  105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/27-23.7(b) (2010).

[iv] For additional examples of cyberbullying definitions, see:  Iowa Code § 280.28.2 (a) (2008); Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-424.3 (2010); 2010 Mass. Adv. Legis. Serv. Ch. No. 92-2010 (Lexis Nexis 2010); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A 37.14.2 (2010); Okla. Stat. Ann. Tit. 70, § 24-100.3 (2009).


[v] For additional examples of characteristic enumeration, see:  105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/27-23.7.a (2010); Iowa Code § 280.28 (2008); Or. Rev. Stat. § § 339.351.3(2009).



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