What Is The Legal Definition Of Bullying

2320 words - 9 pages

When one thinks of bullying, schoolchildren and their, sometimes abusive, behavior often comes to mind. Their is no real debate about the effects of bullying on both the bully and the victim. However, what is never really considered is the effect bullying has on the law. The New Oxford American Dictionary (Stevenson & Lindberg, 2010) defines ‘bullying’ as “[the] use [of] superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.” This will be the definition used as there is no legal definition of bullying. The fact that there is no federal legal definition of bullying can be dangerous, because “[f]ailing to provide clear definitions of bullying…can lead to inconsistent approaches among school personnel to identification and enforcement” (Stuart-Cassel, Bell & Springer, 2010, p. 23). However, even without a legal definition, “all but one state has now enacted harsher anti-bullying laws with zero tolerance policies in school districts” (Garby, 2013, p. 448). Even though forty-nine states have created anti-bullying laws, there is no consensus. In fact, “fourteen states actually restrict legal definitions of bullying to actions that are persistent, pervasive, or repeated over time; and no states explicitly require that behavior involve an imbalance of power to be legally defined as bullying” (Stuart-Cassel, Bell & Springer, 2010, pp. 25-26). However, as time goes by, everything evolves, and bullying is no exception. With the advent of computers and, perhaps even more importantly, the internet, bullying has evolved into something termed ‘cyberbullying.’ However, with all of this new legislation being created, one question begs to be answered; who will be held liable for acts of bullying and the consequences that follow?
As mentioned above, all but one state has created, and have taking steps to enforce, anti-bullying laws; that one state that hasn’t being Montana (Garby, 2013, p. 448). The first state to pass legislation of bullying was the state of Georgia in 1999; this was in response so the Columbine shooting in 1999 (Stuart-Cassel, Bell & Springer, 2010, p. xi). From that first passing of legislature in 1999 through the year 2010, more than 120 bills have been enacted nationally with an additional 8 being signed into law in 2011 (Stuart-Cassel, Bell & Springer, 2010, p. 16). These bills “have either introduced or amended education or criminal statutes to address bullying and related behaviors in schools” (Stuart-Cassel, Bell & Springer, 2010, p. xi, via Swearer, Limber, & Alley, 2009). However, what behaviors are considered ‘bullying?’ As mentioned above, there is no federal legal definition; this means that each state can define bullying as they choose. However, despite there being no consensus on the definition of bullying, there have been some similarities in the wording of the laws between states. For example, “the condition that bullying is sufficiently serious that it creates a...

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