Know Your Rights

“We are told over and over again to tell an adult. I tried that at my school and was told that’s just how kids in middle school act.” – Jack, 8th grade student with Asperger’s

Every student has the right to be safe at school. Students have protections from bullying behavior through federal, state and local law and policies. Many of those laws and policies involve a method to report the bullying. The reports can be made by the person being bullied, their family, or another student or adult.

State Laws that Address Bullying

laws-map2

Most states have laws that provide protections for bullying situations. The content of each law varies considerably. To learn more about your state’s law check out the interactive map on the StopBullying.gov website.

State laws might include the following:

  • Purpose statement – outlines the detrimental effects of bullying and declares that bullying of any kind is unacceptable.
  • Statement of scope – explains what settings this policy covers.
  • Specification of prohibited conduct – includes a specific definition of bullying, including cyberbullying and is consistent with other federal, state, and local laws.
  • Enumeration of specific characteristics – lists actual or perceived characteristics that have historically been targets of bullying.
  • Development and Implementation of LEA (local educational agencies)- requires ever school to develop and implement a bullying prevention policies.
  • Review of local policies – requires states to review local policies on a regular basis.
  • Communication plan – includes a plan for notifying students, parents, and staff about bullying prevention policies.
  • Training and preventive education – school districts must provide training for all school staff.
  • Transparency and monitoring – requires schools to report annually to the state the number of bullying incidences.
Learn more at StopBullying.gov.

Federal Laws That Address Harassment

Students may have additional protections under federal law when the bullying is based on:

  • Race, color, or national origin
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Disability

When the bullying is about someone’s race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or disability – at the federal level – this is called harassment.

Some state and local laws may provide additional protections on other bases, including bullying that happens because of real or perceived sexual orientation.

School Policies

School districts generally have bullying prevention policies. The policies varies from school to school and from state to state. These are often printed in the school handbook or posted on the school website. The policies can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Definition of behavior
  • Reporting procedure
  • Informing parents
  • Consequences for person bullying
  • Support for the target of the bullying

Influencing Decision makers

As a student, you have a strong voice in influencing peers, educators, and administrators within your school. You also can persuade lawmakers to explore changes in laws to protect students. Bullying is an issue that directly affects students and school culture. When you lead the cause, you show you care about other students and your school—and you become a powerful voice for change.

Learn more