So many questions have been raised about bullying, including the biggest question: “Is bullying against the law?” In most states, bullying is against the law. However, there is no federal law specifically designed against bullying. Because of this, many states have needed to either find loop holes in current civil rights laws or create and pass new anti-bullying laws or Laws Against Bullying at the state and local levels.
Federal Laws Against Bullying
At this time there are no federal laws against bullying, however, there is just enough crossover making it possible to prosecute bullying acts under discriminatory and harassment laws. According to the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, Discriminatory and harassment laws can be used to prosecute bullies when the actions are based on race, color, sex, age, disability, religion and/or national origin.
Even though there is no federal law against bullying, citizens have protection under federal civil rights laws that are enforced by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice. Thus meaning schools are obligated under these laws to address any and all actions that:
- Create a hostile school environment
- Intervene with a student’s ability to learn
- Are based on another student’s race, color, sex, disability, religion and/or national origin
- Is severe, persistent and pervasive
What are the laws against bullying?
As mentioned above, there are laws that can be used to prosecute those who have caused harm against another through various acts of bullying. These federal civil rights laws include:
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Education Amendments of 1972
- The Rehabilitations Act of 1973
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
State laws against bullying
When seeking the answer to the question: “Are there laws against bullying?” You will find a variety of answers. Some saying yes, while others say no. This is mostly because there are some states that do have anti-bullying laws. However, according to The Century Foundation, many of these states are too lax on the prosecution of bullies under state law.
This is mostly because these laws contain either a too broad or too specific of a definition. In fact, several of the states that have laws against bullying do not provide an adequate explanation of what the term bullying means.
As of today, only 41 states across the country have anti-bullying laws in place. These laws are designed to combat bullying in both public and private schools.
Workplace Laws Against Bullying
Just as there are no federal laws against bullying at schools, there are no federal laws against bullying in the workplace. However, just like with playground bullying, federal civil rights laws protect the victim even at the workplace.
Obligations related to Laws Against Bullying
Under the federal civil rights laws, school and business owners must take any violations against a student’s or employee’s civil rights seriously. When a complaint is received certain actions must be taken to resolve the situation before it escalates. Some of those actions include:
- Taking immediate and appropriate action to determine what occurred
- Be prompt, thorough and impartial
- Interview target, offender and witnesses
- Communicate action steps with victim
- Follow up to verify harassment has stopped
- End the harassment
- Improve the hostile environment
- Prevent future harassment from occurring
- Prevent retaliation from occurring
Policies and Laws Against Bullying
To help compensate for the lack of laws against bullying, many communities, businesses and schools have adopted policies against bullying. These policies outline what bullying is and how it is not tolerated. Though not as severe as breaking a federal law, someone who is proven to be a bully will face consequences outlined in these policies.
At schools, punishment for violating anti-bullying policies may include suspension, detention or removal from the classroom. These policies are designed to protect students and provide a safe, non-hostile learning environment.
Reason for Laws Against Bullying
Though anti-bullying laws are needed to cover both children and adults who fall victim to these crimes, it is imperative we pass laws that provide protection for young children who are being bullied at school and in the community. As a child, the impact of bullying can have a greater impact on the child’s emotional well-being and future development.
As seen above, there are no federal laws against bullying, however, many ask the question: “Should there be laws against bullying?” The answer to the question is yes. Specific federal laws against bullying would make prosecuting perpetrators less tricky. Federal, state and local lawmakers need to take action to show there is no tolerance for bullying. These laws will help prevent bullying and keep schools and workplaces less hostile.
According to the Department for Health and Human Services, laws against bullying need to:
- Outline the range of detrimental effects bullying has
- Declare any type of bullying is unacceptable
- Cover conduct no matter where it occurs
- List specific conduct that is prohibited
- Define bullying
- Include actions to take when bullying is suspected
- Include procedures for investigating
- Include consequences
So when asked: “Is there a law against bullying?” The answer is yes and no. But that does not mean there is no way to seek legal action against the person who is being a bully at school, in the community or at the workplace. Being a victim of bullying is a violation of your civil rights and the perpetrator can be prosecuted if these acts are severe enough to hinder your rights as a citizen.