Anti bullying legislation has only been a recent occurrence in the past few years. As bullying as become more of a focus in the media, states are doing what they can to create laws to protect the victims and establish proper punishment for those who choose to bully.
These legislation laws are not always easily passed and have faced some controversy in the past. But as states, schools and the government push forward on the issue, more reform will be made to make things fair for everyone involved.
United States Legislation
49 states have passed anti bullying legislation since 1999. Some of the stand outs over history in regards to US legislation:
- Georgia was the first state to pass anti-bullying laws in 1999.
- It was subsequently strengthened in 2010 with the passing of a bill allowing those who have been accused of bullying a student to be reassigned to a new school.
- Montana is the only state without any legislation.
- North Dakota was greatly praised for the law they passed in 2011, not only defining bullying but outlining preventative measures for public schools to take
- New Jersey currently has the strictest laws of all states, in which each school has to report every case to the State and the State will grade the school based on policies and incidents. Each school must also have a prevention plan in place.
The Key Components of State Laws
The government website, StopBullying.gov, gives some ideas of what the key components should be when drafting a new law to pass in the state. These include:
- An outline of exactly how vast the detrimental effects of bullying can be.
- Declaration that any type of bullying in unacceptable, for any reason.
- A statement of the scope of the law; does it cover just in the classroom, or school sponsored events, on school transportation or even online? This is important to make clear.
- Providing a specific definition that includes cyberbullying, as it is often the case that when not included, the area of bullying online becomes gray in the matter of law.
- Making clear that bullying does not have to be about any particular characteristic.
- A procedure for investigating and responding to bullying cases.
- A plan for prevention methods and overall training.
There are no federal laws in the United States that address bullying directly, however there are other laws about discrimination that can be looked to in these cases. In the situation where bullying and harassment overlap, federally funded organizations do have to look into the issue. This includes colleges and universities.
If it is the case that there is a bullying and harassment issue on campus, the school should take part in helping to determine the consequences for the bully, provide support to the victim, limit interaction between the two and monitor the areas where these incidents occurred.
America is not the only country to have anti bullying legislation in place. Head teachers are given the power here via the Education and Inspections Act of 2006. They are responsible for promotion proper behavior and self-discipline, for regulating student conduct and for deciding upon the rules in the classroom. If an incident comes up, parents and the school itself must be notified in writing.
Anti-Bullying Legislation for LGBTQ Students
National attention was brought to legislation after the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who was bullied for being gay. The “It Gets Better” project, which was a huge national push to reach out to young LGBTQ students to help them find their way, was actually born of this incident. The previously mentioned strict New Jersey laws were also implemented after the tragedy.
Although there’s no specific legislation towards LGBTQ students specifically, it is hoped that the overall legislations will properly cover bullying of all kind, no matter what the reason.
Cyberbullying can be a tricky area as it does not take place in the classroom and is harder to monitor and control. It is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” The problem with cyberbullying is the potential for it to occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Right now, very few states have any legislature on this. California did pass a law directly related in 2008, that allows school administrators the right to discipline bullies whether the incidents are happening online or offline.
North Carolina has made it effective since 2012 that students cannot bully teachers, even online. A student can face jail time or a $1,000 fine if found to be cyberbullying employees.
There has been some controversy surrounding the idea of any anti bullying legislation laws. Some feel that the reasons behind laws being passed are unjustified. Others feel that although the laws have some substance, they don’t help in providing schools with the financial help and the proper training to actually make an impact.
Overall, the controversy is minimal and many are trying to rectify such issues by rewriting and creating amendments to already passed laws to give more in the way of victim counseling, funded training and better definitions of bullying overall.
How to Use Anti-Bullying Law as a Parent
If you are a parent or a care-take for a child who does seem to be involved in bullying, whether the victim or the aggressor, it is important to speak immediately with whoever is in authority at the school they attend. This includes cyber-bullying; though not every school can or will get involved in the case of bullying online, you might be surprised on the off chance that they can help in some way.
It is best to use communication first before pushing towards any legislation laws, but if the problem cannot be resolved in this way or with discipline from the school then the next steps would be to bring the issue to the Board of Education. In terms of federally funded schools like college campuses, you can reach out to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, remembering that often you’ll only have a case if the bullying and definition of harassment go hand in hand in the situation.
The process of prosecution in terms of bullying cases can be long and therefore trying to work things out beforehand is often the bet answer. However, it is good to know that there are laws in place for when more drastic measures need to be taken to resolve a problem. In the end, it’ll make everyone take bullying more seriously when they realize that it’s not just fundamentally wrong, but breaking a law.