Specific State Laws Against Bullying
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Every state has passed some sort of law or policy regarding bullying. Montana is the only state that has passed a statewide policy discussing bullying without having enacted a statute specifically prohibiting it. All other states have at least passed a law defining bullying and authorizing school officials or other authorities to take appropriate action to stop it. There is currently no federal law specifically addressing bullying, but other federal laws, such as civil rights and nondiscrimination laws, may require schools to intervene with certain types of bullying.
Although anti-bullying laws vary from state to state, they generally focus on listing the specific behaviors that constitute bullying. These behaviors can include teasing, threats, intimidation, stalking, harassment, physical violence, theft, and public humiliation. States may also identify certain characteristics or traits of students who are often targeted for bullying, as well as provide guidance to school staff regarding how to address bullying issues. When mobile phones or web technology are used to harass or intimidate, it is called "cyberbullying."
Below are some examples of state anti-bullying laws. Because laws are constantly changing, you should check with a local education lawyer if you have any questions about your state's specific bullying laws.
- Arizona, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 15-341.37
Arizona requires every school district to develop policies and procedures for prohibiting bullying and enforcing that prohibition. However, the state leaves it up to individual school districts to define the specific actions that constitute bullying.
- California, Cal. Educ. Code § 234, 234.1, 234.2, 234.3, 234.5, 32261, 32265, 32270, 32282, 32283, and 48900
California's "Safe Place to Learn Act" and other statutes establish numerous rights for students, including the "inalienable right to attend classes on school campuses that are safe, secure, and peaceful." According to Cal. Educ. Code § 48900, bullying in California is defined as any physical or verbal conduct, including written communications, that may cause fear, mental distress, or interference with the victim's studies.
- Connecticut, Ct. Gen. Stat. § 10-222d
Bullying in Connecticut is defined as written, oral or physical acts directed at another student within the same school district that cause physical or emotional harm, cause fear, or creates a hostile learning environment.
- Illinois, 105 ILCS 5/10-20.14 and 105 ILCS 5/27-23.7
Illinois defines bullying as "any severe or pervasive" act that could cause fear of harm, a detrimental physical or mental health effect, or interference with the victim's academic performance or extracurricular activities.
- New Jersey, N.J. Stat. 18A:37-13
In New Jersey, bullying is defined as any gesture or any physical, verbal or written act that is motivated by the actual or perceived traits of the victim. The bullying statute covers school functions, as well as activities off campus and on school buses.
- New York, N.Y. Educ. Law § 13
Bullying in New York is defined as threats, intimidation or abuse that unreasonably and substantially interferes with the victim's educational performance, opportunities, or mental, physical or emotional health. Bullying can apply even if it occurs off school property, so long as it would create a foreseeable risk that the bullying acts might reach school property.
- Texas, Texas Educ. Code § 37.001
Texas defines bullying as any written, verbal or physical act that physically harms a student or damages a student's property, or that creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment.
- Virginia, Virginia Code § 9.1-184 and 22.1-208.01
In Virginia, bullying is any aggressive or unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim. Bullying must also involve a real or perceived imbalance of power between the bully and the victim, and it must either be repeated over time or cause severe emotional trauma. Virginia explicitly states that "ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict" do not count as bullying.
- Washington, Rev. Code of Wash. § 28A.300.285
Washington defines bullying as any intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act that physically harms a student or damages the student's property, interferes with the student's education, creates an intimidating or threatening education environment, or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school.