Bullying and Cyberbullying

February 2, 2018 – Volume 28, Issue 5
Are schools doing enough to protect victims? By Susan Ladika


Melissa Martinez of Thornton, Colo. (Cover: Getty Images/The Denver Post/Andy Cross)  
Melissa Martinez of Thornton, Colo., says cyberbullying was a factor when her 13-year-old daughter, Isabella, killed herself last year. Reports of cyberbullying among K-12 students are on the rise. Children who are bullied in person or online are more than twice as likely as other children to take their own life. (Cover: Getty Images/The Denver Post/Andy Cross)

An increasing share of K-12 schools in the United States are reporting incidents of online bullying, sometimes with tragic consequences. Victims as young as 8 have taken their lives after being persecuted by mean-spirited rumors and personal attacks posted on social media sites. Bullying victims also are more likely than other students to bring a gun to school, sparking renewed debate over whether states and schools are doing enough to prevent harassing behavior. As recent court rulings show, however, policymakers and school administrators face big challenges in crafting anti-bullying laws and policies that do not violate students' free-speech rights, especially when bullying occurs off-campus. Parents are filing lawsuits that claim school officials failed to protect their children from bullies. President Trump's critics, meanwhile, contend some students have mimicked his anti-immigration rhetoric in taunting minority classmates. Bullying also continues to be an issue for adult victims, affecting millions of workers, especially women, in offices and factories.

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David Molak was a “regular kid,” a good student and an Eagle Scout who loved sports and video games, according to his family.

But his upbeat outlook changed during his sophomore year at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, Texas, when other students began to taunt and insult him online, his mother, Maurine Molak, recalls.

The cyberbullying became relentless. In October 2015, David, then 16, showed his family an Instagram post comparing his looks to a character in a “Planet of the Apes” movie and saying he should be in a body bag. “He was afraid to go to school,” his mother says. “He thought everyone hated him.”

Despairing, David tried to kill himself twice. The third time, in January 2016, he succeeded. His mother found him hanging from a tree in the family's back yard. “They crushed his spirit and took away his motivation to do anything,” his older brother Cliff said.1

Other families have faced the same horror. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, and children who are bullied in person or online are more than twice as likely as other children to consider killing themselves.2

Bullying that occurs face to face involves unwanted, aggressive behavior that is repeated or could be repeated and “a real or perceived power imbalance.” Bullies might subject their victims to name-calling, hurtful rumors or threats of harm. They might push or spit on them, exclude them from activities, destroy their property, or pressure them to do something they do not want to do.3

Sixteen-year-old David Molak (Courtesy Molak Family)  
Sixteen-year-old David Molak, a high school sophomore in San Antonio, Texas, took his own life after relentless cyberbullying by other students made him afraid to go to school. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. (Courtesy Molak Family)

Online bullying typically targets victims with hurtful rumors, embarrassing photos or other mean-spirited information. Reports of cyberbullying among K-12 students — either at school or away from school — are on the rise, according to the National Center on Education Statistics.4

In addition to the links between bullying and suicide, recent research has found that children who are bullied are more likely to be violent inside and outside the classroom and are much more likely to bring a weapon to school.5

Such findings have focused new attention on how state officials and school administrators deal with bullying, especially cyberbullying. All states have laws prohibiting face-to-face bullying, and most also ban bullying that occurs online. But those laws — and anti-bullying policies at individual schools — vary widely and are not always effective. One study found that bullying-prevention efforts at some schools actually increased the chances that students at those schools would be victimized.6

Some researchers say the problem has become more widespread since the onset of the 2016 presidential campaign, with school-age youths taunting classmates using the same words and phrases that Donald Trump uses to disparage illegal immigrants, his critics and others.7

“I've never seen a political contest affect schools in the way this one did,” says Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance project at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups and works to protect civil rights.

Policing such behavior can be difficult for school officials because in some cases it may qualify as protected political speech. Depending on the specific circumstances, for example, shouting “Build the wall!” — a reference to Trump's campaign promise to seal the Southwest border to keep out illegal immigrants — could be protected under the First Amendment.

“[But] a message like ‘Your parents are going to be deported’ is not a political argument,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., which educates high school and college journalists about the First Amendment. “I think a judge would be highly unlikely to protect that speech if the school disciplined it.” Speech also is not protected if it aims to incite violence or “imminent lawless action,” the Supreme Court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969.8

The alarming spread of online bullying — and publicity surrounding the suicides of some school-age victims — has moved discussions of the issue well beyond the classroom. Melania Trump has identified it as her signature cause as first lady, and professional sports figures and Britain's Prince William have spoken out against it.

Surveys and studies show that:

  • The percentage of public schools reporting that students engaged in online bullying on or off campus at least once a week increased 4.1 percentage points between the 2009–10 and 2015–16 school years. At schools with at least 1,000 students, the increase was 8.1 points. In 2016, about one-third of middle and high school students between 12 and 17 years old said they had been cyberbullied.9

  • Reports of in-person bullying on school grounds, meanwhile, are declining, even though experts say bullies are still much more likely to victimize their targets face to face than online. Researchers tracked an 11.2-point drop in the percentage of public schools reporting at least weekly incidents of in-person bullying between the 2009–10 and 2015–16 school years. Lyndsay Jenkins, director of the Bullying Prevention Research Group at Florida State University, says the decline may be due to school and state anti-bullying laws and programs, as well as increased attention to the problem.10

  • About 46 percent of bullying victims who met three criteria — they had gotten into fights at school, been threatened or injured at school and skipped school because they feared for their safety — also said they had brought a weapon to school.11

The bar graph shows the percentage of public schools reporting cyberbullying and in-person bullying, from 2009 to 2010 and from 2015 to 2016.  

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The percentage of U.S. public schools reporting at least one weekly online-bullying incident, at school or off campus, rose 4.1 percentage points between 2009 to 2010 and 2015 to 2016. Reports of in-person bullying at schools, meanwhile, fell 11.2 points.

Sources: Melissa Diliberti et al., “Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2015 to 2016,” National Center for Education Statistics, July 2017, tables 4 and 5, https://tinyurl.com/yajr3kss; Samantha Neiman and Monica R. Hill, “Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2009–10,” National Center for Education Statistics, May 2011, tables 5 and 6, https://tinyurl.com/y7n8qam7

Data for the graphic are as follows:

School Year Percentage of Public Schools Reporting Cyberbullying Percentage of Public Schools Reporting In-person Bullying
2009 to 2010 7.9% 23.1%
2015 to 2016 12.0% 11.9%

By comparison, only 2.5 percent of teens who were not bullied brought weapons to school. Past research showing that high school students who have been bullied exhibit higher levels of violent behavior than classmates who have not been bullied.”12

Studies of the connection between bullying and school shootings have produced varying results. A 2004 study by the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education said that in almost three-quarters of 37 school attacks studied, including shootings, “attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.”13

But more recently, Peter Langman, a psychologist who has studied school shootings, said only 40 percent of 48 school shooters he studied had experienced some kind of bullying. And Langman said only one targeted a boy who had picked on him. “Despite the widespread belief that school shooters are motivated by bullying to seek retaliation against their tormentors, this virtually never happens,” Langman said.14

School-age children who are unpopular or friendless or have low self-esteem are most vulnerable to being bullied, along with LGBT students and those with disabilities, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research arm of Congress.15

Even high-profile sports figures have been victims. For example, Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin was subjected to harassment — including racial slurs and sexual taunts about his family — by three other players, according to an investigator appointed by the National Football League. The investigator concluded that the persecution caused Martin to leave the team in 2013 and was among the reasons he experienced suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues.16

Researchers say bullies and their victims are at higher risk for depression, reduced self-esteem and a sense of isolation, conditions that can lead to missed school days and poorer academic performance. Bullying also costs taxpayers through higher rates of incarceration and substance abuse among adults who were bullied as children.

“Youth who report both bullying others and being bullied have the highest risk for suicide-related behavior of any groups that report involvement in bullying,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.17

Schoolchildren who witness bullying also can suffer serious consequences, such as depression and missed school days. “It can really have an adverse impact on everybody involved,” says Amanda Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo in New York.18

Bullies defy easy categorization, but they tend to feel powerless in their lives, lack empathy, often come from dysfunctional families, need to be in control and have trouble regulating their emotions.19

And bullying can continue long beyond high school. About 60 million Americans are victimized by bullies at work, according to an April 2017 survey.20

There is evidence that state anti-bullying laws have helped reduce in-person bullying and cyberbullying, but experts note that states often do not budget money to implement those laws, such as training for teachers.21 State laws also tend to focus on punishment, but researchers say expulsions and suspensions do nothing to address the underlying behavioral problems that help create bullies.

“Punishing bullies may seem like the obvious, natural response to the problem,” said Emily Suski, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, who writes about education law. “But it does not truly address it.”22

As school administrators, policymakers and others look at ways to reduce bullying and cyberbullying, here are some of the questions they are asking:

Are school anti-bullying programs effective?

A 2009 study of school anti-bullying programs around the world found they decreased bullying behavior typically by 20 to 23 percent. Other research has shown that longer, more intense programs, especially those that use parental involvement, classroom rules and better playground supervision, have resulted in better outcomes.23

“If all school personnel carry out a bullying prevention program in the same way, it's going to be more impactful,” says Jonathan Schwartz, associate dean of graduate studies in the College of Education at the University of Houston.

However, a University of Texas, Arlington (UTA) study came to the surprising conclusion that anti-bullying programs at some schools actually made it more likely that students at those schools would become victims.

“Students who are victimizing their peers have learned the language from these anti-bullying campaigns and programs,” said Seokjin Jeong, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at UTA and the study's lead author. “The students become highly exposed to what a bully is, and they know what to do or say [to avoid punishment] when questioned by parents or teachers.”24

Anti-bullying efforts also may be more effective in populations that are less racially and economically diverse, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina, who found that such efforts were less successful in the United States than in other countries.

“In the United States, schools with heterogeneous populations tend to be economically disadvantaged,” the 2014 study said. “In these settings, bullying prevention programs should probably be embedded in a broad array of prevention efforts designed to address risk factors at the individual, family, neighborhood and school levels.” In addition, the study said, to be effective in schools with heterogeneous populations, “interventions need to be culturally sensitive.”

The researchers also said that income inequality, which they identified as more of an issue in the United States than in other countries, also fuels higher bullying rates. “Schools in the United States face complex challenges and, for many, bullying prevention programs might be insufficient to address the elevated levels of family and community risks to which a large percentage of students are exposed daily,” they said.25

Two experts — Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Diana Divecha, a developmental psychologist affiliated with the center — said school anti-bullying programs in 2013 cost up to $125 per pupil while producing “little to no help for the targets or the perpetrators.”26

“This is not real prevention,” they said. “It's too much rule-making and not enough skill-building.” The two said the keys to success are social and emotional learning programs, which teach effective communication, problem solving and relationship skills. They “demonstrate stronger effects than bullying prevention programs because they are more comprehensive, and importantly, they focus on developing specific emotional skills in the educators and students while building a positive school climate.”27

Jenkins, with the Bullying Prevention Research Group at Florida State University, says many school anti-bullying programs address the behavior but not its root causes, such as a chaotic home life, inability to feel empathy, a need for power or difficulty regulating one's emotions. Programs that focus on bystander intervention “tend to be more effective,” Jenkins says.28

Bystander programs train people on the sidelines of a bullying incident to intervene in a non-aggressive way to discourage the bully and protect the victim. A 2012 analysis of 12 bystander intervention programs involving nearly 13,000 students found the programs generally increased the likelihood that bystanders would intervene. It also found that the programs were more effective with high school students than with younger children.29

The anti-bullying program KiVa, which originated in Finland (kiva means nice in Finnish), received high marks in a 2016 study by the University of California, Los Angeles, which said the program improved the mental health of the most severely bullied sixth-graders, decreasing their depression and improving their self-esteem.

KiVa features role-playing designed to increase bystanders' empathy, and computer simulations that prompt students to consider how they would intervene.

“Our findings are the first to show that the most tormented children — those facing bullying several times a week — can be helped by teaching bystanders to be more supportive,” said Jaana Juvonen, a psychology professor at UCLA and lead author of the study.30

However, Brackett and Divecha said teaching bystanders to intervene “has definitively been shown to be counterproductive because of the power of bullies to retaliate.”31

Schwartz at the University of Houston expressed similar skepticism. “Typically, it's really hard for kids to have a culture where bystander intervention works,” he says. Bullies may continue their behavior if doing so improves their social standing, so it can help to teach students not to laugh when a bully says something mean, Schwartz says.

To limit bullying among younger children, he recommends teaching acceptance of others. High school students should be taught to embrace diversity and to recognize that “differences are … part of the school culture,” he says. But, he adds, if students are taught at home to be hateful, “it's hard for schools to have an impact.”

Sebastian Hudak, a 12-year-old who attended a public middle school in Webster, N.Y., said, “There are signs all over the school to stop bullying. The problem is, most bullying happens on the bus or at lunch where there are no teachers.”

He also said most teachers discourage “tattling,” which means “there isn't really a system for reporting bullies.”32

Are states doing enough to curb bullying at schools?

There is no federal anti-bullying law, but every state and the District of Columbia have adopted laws that address bullying at K-12 schools. Montana's law, enacted in 2015, is the most recent.

The map shows state and territorial laws and policies on bullying.  

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All 50 states, the District of Columbia and most U.S. territories have laws to address online or in-person bullying, or both, and most also have policies that guide schools on preventing such behavior. In some cases, bullying appears in the criminal code of a state that may apply to juveniles.

Source: “Laws & Policies,” StopBullying.gov, updated Sept. 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8yo3sx7

Data for the graphic are as follows:

States and Territories with Law and Policy States and Territories with Law Only Territories with Policy Only
Alabama American Samoa Northern Mariana Islands
Alaska Arizona  
California Arkansas  
Connecticut Colorado  
Delaware Hawaii  
Florida Mississippi  
Georgia Missouri  
Idaho North Carolina  
Illinois Texas  
New Hampshire    
New Jersey    
New Mexico    
New York    
North Dakota    
Rhode Island    
South Carolina    
South Dakota    
West Virginia    
District of Columbia    
Puerto Rico    
Virgin Islands    

Every state also has criminal laws dealing with assault, harassment and stalking, but applying those laws to bullying is not always easy. Prosecutors in Texas, for example, looked into filing harassment charges against the teens who bullied San Antonio sophomore David Molak online, but they ultimately decided the case would not stand up in court.

“If we're not talking about physical bullying, we're really talking about harassment, and that is a vague statute,” said Nico LaHood, the district attorney in the Texas county where David killed himself. “Under the harassment statute, we have to have the evidence to back up the different elements of the allegation, and it's just not there.”33

Nickerson, at the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention, says “the jury is still out” on whether state anti-bullying laws are effective. However, in states with laws that include at least one of 11 components that the U.S. Department of Education identified in 2010 as key to reducing the incidence of bullying, students were 24 percent less likely to say they had been bullied in person and 20 percent less likely to say they had been bullied online, according to a study reported in 2015.

The best state laws clearly define bullying and specify whether they apply to on-campus behavior only or behavior off campus as well, the report said. State laws that require school districts to enact strong anti-bullying policies were linked to an 8 to 12 percent drop in bullying.34

“Laws actually work, and as we can get a better understanding of what combination of laws works best, we can create a gold standard of legislation,” said lead author Mark Hatzenbuehler, an associate professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University in New York City.35

However, a study in the Journal of Population Economics said there is little evidence the typical state anti-bullying law “is effective in improving school safety and student well-being.”36

Many state anti-bullying laws ask school districts and schools “to take on additional tasks — such as providing training on bullying for teachers and other school personnel — without allocating additional funds for these tasks.”37

Enforcement also can be a problem. In Massachusetts, for example, no one makes sure that applying the state's anti-bullying law “is actually happening and happening effectively,” said Kim Storey, a consultant with the Education Development Center, a research organization in Boston. “It's hard to require something without putting the funding behind it.”38

State laws focus on bullying among public school students and typically include provisions for investigating and reporting bullying, disciplining bullies and training teachers and other staff how to handle and prevent bullying incidents.

Some states define not only what bullying is but also what it is not. Virginia's anti-bullying law, for example, specifies that “ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict” do not qualify as bullying.39

State efforts to address in-person bullying and cyberbullying are wide-ranging:

  • Anti-bullying laws in 48 states include provisions for cyberbullying, and 44 contain criminal sanctions for such actions.

  • Forty-five state laws include some form of school sanction for cyberbullying that occurs on campus but only 16 address off-campus infractions. Most state laws “really just require school districts to come up with a way to monitor and address bullying that happens at school,” says Jenkins.

  • With the exception of Montana, every state requires schools to have a formal policy to help identify bullying behavior and discuss discipline.40

  • Bullying that targets victims based on their race, color, national origin, sex, disability or religion qualifies as discriminatory harassment under federal civil rights and disability laws, and schools are legally obligated to address it.41

“But there is a key problem with the use of civil rights law to prevent bullying: Some bullied students do not fall into one of the protected groups,” Dewey G. Cornell, a forensic clinical psychologist and education professor at the University of Virginia, and Susan P. Limber, a psychology professor at South Carolina's Clemson University and associate director of the university's Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, wrote in 2016.42

First-grader Baylee Chew, left, reads a book (AP Photo/Herald & Review/Jim Bowling)  
First-grader Baylee Chew, left, reads a book with a bullying-prevention message, created for her by sixth-grader Zakariya Hickman, right, at their school in Decatur, Ill., on Feb. 2, 2017. A 2009 study of school anti-bullying programs worldwide found that they decreased bullying typically by 20 to 23 percent. (AP Photo/Herald & Review/Jim Bowling)

Under a 1999 Supreme Court ruling, schools can be held liable if they act with “deliberate indifference” to student-on-student bullying that qualifies as harassment under Title IX of a 1972 federal education law and effectively denies the victim a chance at an education.43

Justin Patchin, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and co-director of the school's Cyberbullying Research Center, says it would help to have clarity in cyberbullying case law “on what the role of the school is — what they can do, what they must do and what they can't do.”

In Texas, David Molak's suicide led lawmakers to update the state's 2011 bullying law with a new measure — called “David's Law” — which took effect in September. It requires school districts to include cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policies and to notify the parents of children who either bully or are victimized by bullying. It allows schools to investigate off-campus cyberbullying that affects students' behavior in the classroom, and students can be charged with a misdemeanor for harassing or bullying anyone under 18 through text messages or social media.44

The law marked a victory for David's Legacy Foundation, which the Molak family created to educate people about the harmful effects of cyberbullying. “There has to be good that comes out of something so terrible,” Maurine Molak says.

Have President Trump's comments incited bullying at schools?

The president's detractors often accuse him of bullying those who disagree with him, and some experts and educators say those comments are affecting the behavior of K-12 students.

The two pie charts show the percentages bullies and their targets by gender.  

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Women are far more likely than men to be victims of “repeated abusive mistreatment” at work. Seventy percent of workplace bullies are male.

Source: Gary Namie, “2017 Workplace Bullying Institute: U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey,” Workplace Bullying Institute, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycdhw7pt

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Gender of Bullies Percentage of Targets Who Are Female Percentage of Targets Who Are Male
Male (70% of all perpetrators) 65% 35%
Female (30% of all perpetrators) 67% 33%

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said it found evidence of that in a survey that the group's Teaching Tolerance project conducted of K-12 teachers in spring 2016. “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation's Schools” concluded that the 2016 presidential campaign was producing “an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and [was] inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom.”

The survey's questions did not mention candidates by name, but 1,000 of the 5,000 comments submitted by educators contained references to Trump. The names of three other presidential contenders — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who won the Democratic presidential nomination — appeared fewer than 200 times, the SPLC said.45

Some children were using Trump's name “as a taunt or as a chant as they gang up on others. Muslim children are being called terrorist or ISIS or bomber.” Some teachers reported hearing elementary and middle school students chanting, “‘Trump! Trump! Trump!” in a “taunting tone,” the SPLC said.

To put “the Trump effect” to the test, Politico requested bullying and harassment reports from more than a dozen school districts. Of the seven districts that responded by the end of November 2016, “there was no significant spike in reported incidents,” Politico reported.

Politico also reported that the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights provided data showing that reports of racial harassment were coming in at about the same rate at the beginning of fiscal 2017 as in recent past years.46

During the 2016 campaign, Trump launched a Twitter tirade against “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski, called then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly a “bimbo,” and retweeted a video showing him hitting Clinton with a golf ball.47

He also mocked a disabled reporter, prompting Clinton's campaign to release a TV ad featuring a young man with muscular dystrophy named Bryce who recalled being victimized by bullies at his school. “I don't want bullies in my life, and I especially don't want one in the White House,” Bryce said in the ad.48

A demonstrator at the Women's March on Washington (Getty Images/Robert Nickelsberg)  
A demonstrator at the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017, holds a placard criticizing President Trump for mocking physically challenged New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski. The president's detractors accuse him of bullying those who disagree with him, and some educators say those comments affect the bullying behavior of K-12 students. First lady Melania Trump, meanwhile, has made bullying prevention her signature issue. (Getty Images/Robert Nickelsberg)

Conservatives bashed the SPLC's survey as biased and inflammatory. “Like every other activity the SPLC engages in, the point isn't to actually disavow prejudice but to monetize it,” said Tina Trent, a conservative blogger in Georgia.49

Paul Sperry, a conservative author, said the SPLC failed to note that its survey collected anecdotal evidence that white, pro-Trump students also had been bullied and called names during the presidential campaign.50 Sixteen-year-old Connor Mullen, for example, said he was bullied in April 2016 for wearing a pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” hat to his high school in South Portland, Maine. One student told Connor, “I'm glad you're being bullied.”51

Anya Kamenetz, an education blogger for NPR, described the “Trump Effect” survey as “basically anecdotal and not nationally representative.” She noted that the teachers surveyed had had prior contact with the law center, which she said made them “more likely to be concerned about racial issues in the first place.”52

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Costello concedes that the SPLC was not trying to canvas a representative sample of educators. She also acknowledges that, despite the survey's title, it does not prove a clear link between Trump's comments on the campaign trail and bullying at schools. “I don't think we can answer that there is a certain correlation,” she says. “We know bullying took on a political flavor in 2016, which has continued. That is sort of unprecedented.”

In a second SPLC “Trump Effect” survey conducted six month after the first one, 80 percent of the 10,000 teachers who responded reported increased anxiety among students who were immigrants, Muslim, black or gay, and 40 percent reported hearing derogatory language aimed at minority students.53

“This is the tricky part — how to classify this behavior,” Costello says. “Some is bullying,” such as chants of “Build the wall” and “Trump, Trump, Trump,” aimed at specific students. In other cases, students are making comments in class but not targeting a particular person.

Former President George W. Bush appeared to deliver veiled criticism of Trump's discourse at a policy seminar in New York in October without mentioning Trump by name. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children,” Bush said.54

Deborah Temkin, director of education research at Child Trends, an organization in Bethesda, Md., that advises policymakers on ways to improve the lives of youths, said in October there was no way to gauge whether bullying had increased as a result of the presidential campaign. “We don't even know if there is a reason to look for a cause if bullying rates are going up,” she said. If bullying did increase, she said “it's really risky to [cite] a single factor.”55

In October, eight Democratic senators and independent Sanders wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking what she plans to do to stop bullying, harassment and discrimination at public schools.

“We are deeply concerned that President Trump's tweets and remarks have normalized bigotry, racism, homophobia, and misogyny and that his behavior has fostered discrimination, enabled bullies, and threatened the safety of students,” the senators wrote. “We call on the Department to outline its plan to address the rise of discrimination and harassment in our schools.” As of Jan. 31, DeVos had not responded.56

Ironically, the first lady's anti-bullying campaign focuses on social media — the same platform her husband's critics say the president regularly uses to bully people. In a speech at the United Nations in September, the first lady said, “No child should ever feel hungry, stalked, frightened, terrorized, bullied, isolated or afraid, with nowhere to turn.”57

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Early Progress in Norway

In 1970, Dan Olweus, a Norwegian-Swedish psychologist, began what is now considered the world's first scientific study on bullying behavior. Three years later, Olweus published “Aggression in the Schools: Bullies and Whipping Boys” in Scandinavia.58

After three adolescent bullying victims in Norway killed themselves, the country's Ministry of Education in 1983 launched a national campaign against school bullying. That led to the development of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which focuses on creating a safe, positive climate in K-12 schools.59

The program's core components include assessing the prevalence of bullying at a particular school, forming a committee to implement prevention strategies, creating a system for adults to monitor students outside the classroom and involving parents in anti-bullying efforts.60

Schools in Scandinavia that implemented the program saw at least a 50 percent decline in bullying and fewer instances of antisocial behavior such as fighting, truancy and vandalism. Students reported more orderly classrooms, better social relationships and better attitudes toward school.

Olweus had proposed a law against school bullying in 1981, but Norway did not approve anti-bullying legislation until the mid-1990s, along with Sweden.

Following his program's success in Scandinavia, Olweus worked with Limber at Clemson University and other U.S. experts and began adapting the program for implementation in the United States. The program was adopted by 18 middle schools in South Carolina in the mid-1990s, and evaluations a year later found that bullying and social isolation had significantly decreased. The program has since been introduced at hundreds of schools around the country.

Heinz Leymann, a German-born industrial psychologist who began studying workplace violence in Sweden in the 1980s, discovered that some workers were experiencing high levels of stress because co-workers were abusing them. Leymann used the term “mobbing” to refer to incidents involving multiple perpetrators and that occurred almost daily for at least six months. Before his research, workplace bullying had not been widely discussed.61

Free-Speech Issues

Bullying — particularly cyberbullying — presents potential legal issues for schools seeking to discipline offenders without violating their constitutional right to free speech. The standard for such discipline originated in a 1969 case (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District) in which the Supreme Court ruled that school officials in Des Moines, Iowa, had acted improperly when they suspended students for wearing black armbands to class to protest the Vietnam War.

The court's ruling described the students' protest as “quiet and passive” and said, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”62

Forty-two years later, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited that decision in ruling against a West Virginia high school senior, Kara Kowalski, who had created a MySpace page to ridicule a fellow student. Kowalski was suspended for five days for violating her school's harassment and bullying policy.

She sued the school district, alleging free-speech violations, but the appellate court (in Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools), said her use of the internet to attack the classmate “was sufficiently connected to the school environment” that school officials had the right to discipline her, and that her attacks on the other student met the “substantial interference” standard outlined in Tinker.63

In the 2000 case of Emmett v. Kent School District, however, a federal judge in Washington state blocked the suspension of high school senior Nick Emmett, who had created an “Unofficial Kentlake High Home Page” that contained mock obituaries of fellow students. The judge said the school district had presented no evidence that the obituaries were intended to threaten anyone.64

In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education that school officials in Macon, Ga., could be held liable for taking no action in response to student-on-student bullying that qualified as harassment under federal law and is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim's access to an educational opportunity.” The court also set up a six-part public school liability test for determining when bullying rises to the level of harassment.65

Many bullying researchers and school administrators are hoping for more clarity from the Supreme Court. But the court has declined to weigh in on other cases, including one from 2013 (Morrow v. Balaski) in which the parents of two sisters who said they were targeted by repeated bullying at school, including racially charged attacks and physical violence, claimed that the Blackhawk School District in Pennsylvania had failed to protect the girls.66

In that case, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, based on prior case law, the school was not constitutionally obligated to take special measures — such as removing the bullies from the school — to protect the sisters.67

School districts have prevailed in almost two-thirds of such cases, according to a study of 166 bullying-related court rulings between 1992 and 2011. Almost 90 percent of the cases were tried in federal court, and the rest were heard in state court.68

State, Federal and Private Actions

Georgia adopted the first state anti-bullying law in 1999, and all other states and the District of Columbia eventually followed suit. The most recent anti-bullying law was passed in Montana in 2015.69

In 2010, federal education officials reviewed existing state laws and identified 11 key components that they said should be part of anti-bullying laws and policies. “Though laws are only a part of the cure for bullying, the adoption, publication and enforcement of a clear and effective anti-bullying policy sends a message that all incidents of bullying must be addressed immediately and effectively, and that such behavior will not be tolerated,” then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote.70

The components identified by the Education Department include:

  • Clear definitions of bullying and cyberbullying.

  • An anti-bullying policy that includes input from all stakeholders.

  • Procedures for reporting, investigating and responding to cases of bullying, including procedures for notifying the parents of perpetrators and victims and, in some cases, law enforcement officials.

  • Anti-bullying training for school staff.

  • Procedures for schools to report the number of bullying incidents each year and how they responded to those incidents.71

In 2006, the anti-bullying organization PACER, in Bloomington, Minn., founded an annual nationwide campaign — National Bullying Prevention Month — held each October that focuses on raising awareness about bullying and educating communities on prevention.72

Although no federal laws specifically address bullying, in 2010 the U.S. Department of Education hosted the first bullying prevention summit, designed to get governmental and nongovernmental organizations to work together to curb bullying. If left unchecked, bullying “can quickly escalate into harassment, violence and tragedies,” Assistant Deputy Education Secretary Kevin Jennings said at the time. The summits have been held every two years, most recently in 2016.73

In 2011, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spoke against bullying at the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. “As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard,” the president said. “And I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn't immune. I didn't emerge unscathed…. Sometimes we overlook the real damage that bullying can do, especially when young people face harassment day after day, week after week.”74

The Obama White House also created a website, StopBullying.gov, which still exists, to serve as a clearinghouse for information regarding bullying.75

Even the U.S. Secret Service has studied bullying trends, teaming with the Department of Education in 2004 to release the “Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States.” The report was a response to the April 1999 attacks at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who shot and killed 12 other students and a teacher before killing themselves.

Initial theories of the shooting suggested Harris or Klebold — or both — had been bullied. Further analysis proved that incorrect. But the report, which analyzed shootings and other attacks at schools between December 1974 and May 2000, said many attackers “felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others.”76

“In one case, most of the attacker's schoolmates described the attacker as ‘the kid everyone teased,’” the report said. “In witness statements from that incident, schoolmates alleged that nearly every child in the school had at some point thrown the attacker against a locker, tripped him in the hall, held his head under water in the pool, or thrown things at him.”77


Since the mid-2000s, the widespread adoption of cellphones and the creation of social media sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have opened new frontiers for bullying. Between 2004 and 2009, the percentage of U.S. teens with cellphones grew from 45 percent to 71 percent. By 2015, nearly three-quarters of teens had access to a smartphone, and more than 90 percent went online daily. More than 70 percent said they used Facebook and more than half used Instagram.78

Those trends helped to fuel a rise in suicides linked to cyberbullying.

In 2006, Missouri teen Megan Meier killed herself after a neighborhood parent, Lori Drew, along with Drew's teenage daughter and another teen, created a MySpace page for a fictitious boy who drew Megan into an online relationship and then cruelly rejected her.

In what was considered the first verdict in a criminal case involving cyberbullying, a federal jury in 2008 convicted Lori Drew of three misdemeanor counts of computer fraud, but judge George H. Wu threw out the verdicts and acquitted her. Prosecutors had argued that Drew's violation of MySpace's terms of service essentially amounted to computer hacking, but Wu said that premise “basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime, and therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract.”79

In 2010, high school freshman Phoebe Prince, who had recently moved to Massachusetts from Ireland, hanged herself after being bullied and cyberbullied by five classmates. Prince had had a brief relationship with one of the teens convicted of harassing her. The five pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment charges. They were sentenced to probation and or community service.80

Also in 2010, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, used a webcam to record Clementi having sex with another man and invited others to watch on social media.

Ravi was convicted in 2012 under New Jersey's bias intimidation law, which applied to cases in which victims “reasonably believed” they had been harassed or intimidated because of their race, color, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Three years after Ravi's conviction, New Jersey's Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional and dismissed those counts against Ravi. In 2016, Ravi pleaded guilty to attempted invasion of privacy in the case. Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years' probation, 300 hours of community service, a $10,000 fine and counseling on cyberbullying and alternate lifestyle.81

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Current Situation

Action by Policymakers

New federal, state and local government moves are expected to expand laws and ordinances that target bullying. Some efforts are already underway.

In Congress, Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-Calif., last year introduced the bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require school districts to establish policies prohibiting bullying and harassment based on sexual identity, gender identity, race, religion and other factors — or lose federal funding. Sánchez has introduced the measure since 2007 without success.82

“Schools must be a safe place for our children to learn and grow and be protected from bullying,” she said.83

Rep. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., is spearheading legislation to set up a national task force to study bullying and cyberbullying at elementary and high schools and recommend ways to combat both problems.

Donovan's bill is known as “Danny's Law” after 13-year-old Danny Fitzpatrick of Staten Island, N.Y., who killed himself in 2016 after being bullied repeatedly. Donovan said that in his own youth, bullies “had to be bigger and stronger and more intimidating than the people they were bullying.” With the advent of social media, he said, “anyone can bully somebody.”84

In Ohio, Democratic state Sen. Sandra Williams of Cleveland has proposed amending state law to allow students accused of aggravated bullying to be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor. The charge would apply to students accused of repeatedly threatening other students with serious physical or emotional harm. Penalties would increase based on frequency. “The purpose of this bill is not to criminalize individuals, but to form a deterrent and make sure they understand the seriousness of bullying,” Williams said.85

In Florida, the Republican speaker of the state House, Richard Corcoran, said he will push legislation that would allow children who are bullied or abused in public schools to receive a state-funded scholarship to attend a private school. “No child should ever be afraid to go to school, and no child should have to continually suffer abuse,” Corcoran said. “They deserve a way out.”

Others are skeptical of the proposal. The Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, said the idea is not about protecting students but instead “is about boosting the state's voucher system,” which uses tax dollars to provide private-school tuition to students from low-income families. And Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette said there is no guarantee that bullying is less of a problem at private schools than at public schools.86

On the local level, an anti-bullying measure took effect in October in North Tonawanda, N.Y., that allows parents of children found to be bullies to be jailed for up to 15 days or fined $250.

And city officials in Racine, Wis., are considering an ordinance that would prohibit bullying and cyberbullying and bar retaliating against anyone who reports such behavior. Parents could be fined if they are notified their child has bullied someone and fail to stop the behavior.87

Lawsuits Over Bullying

Citing anecdotal evidence, legal experts say parents increasingly are suing school districts alleging their children were bullied.88

Recent cases include a September 2016 lawsuit in which a Rochester, N.Y., family claimed school officials failed to deal with a bullying problem that led their 12-year-old daughter to kill herself. Last August, a New Jersey family who also lost a 12-year-old to suicide sued the child's school district, saying she had been cyberbullied and that district officials failed to stop it.89

But it can be difficult to prove school officials were indifferent to threats of harm to a child.

In 2016, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the family of 13-year-old Stephen Patton that the family had failed to prove that teachers and administrators at Allen Central Middle School in Eastern, Ky., knew the eighth-grader was being bullied at school before he shot himself in 2007.90

In another high-profile case, the family of 8-year-old Gabriel Taye filed a wrongful death suit against the Cincinnati public school district in August 2017, seven months after Gabriel killed himself. The third-grader's suicide followed an incident in which he was attacked and beaten at Carson Elementary School. The lawsuit accuses the school of withholding crucial details about the assault and covering up the environment that led to Gabriel's death. School district officials deny the allegations.91

In June 2016, a different kind of lawsuit — one filed by a convicted bully — led North Carolina's Supreme Court to throw out the state's cyberbullying law as a violation of free speech, saying it barred “a wide range of online speech — whether on subjects of merely puerile interest or on matters of public importance — and all with no requirement that anyone suffer any actual injury.”92

The law, adopted in 2009, had barred using a computer or computer network to post or “encourage others to post on the internet private, personal or sexual information pertaining to a minor” with “the intent to intimidate or torment a minor.”

Robert Bishop, a high school student in Graham, N.C., challenged the law after being convicted in 2014 of joining other students in targeting a classmate with vindictive social media posts. The court's ruling also threw out his conviction in what was the first cyberbully case to go to trial in North Carolina.93

High-profile Efforts

Melania Trump's campaign against cyberbullying is not the only high-profile anti-bullying effort underway. In 2016, Britain's Prince William created a task force to help reduce cyberbullying in the United Kingdom.

“Through my work on mental health, I have spent time getting to know parents and children for whom the impact of online bullying has been devastating,” William said. “And as a parent myself, I understand the sense of loss and anger of those particular families who have lost children after they were the targets of campaigns of harassment.”94

In November, the task force, working with tech giants such as Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, announced the first online code of conduct — “Stop, Speak, Support” — aimed at ending cyberbullying. The effort includes a website (www.stopspeaksupport.com) where children can go for support if they see cyberbullying.

The tech companies on the task force also are adopting guidelines to improve the process for reporting cyberbullying on social media and to clarify consequences for those who engage in cyberbullying.95

Some NFL players and teams have participated in anti-bullying efforts.

In October, the New York Jets hosted the team's third annual Anti-Bullying Awareness Day during its game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team and the Municipal Credit Union donated $100,000 to the STOMP Out Bullying organization, and an anti-bullying public service announcement was shown throughout the game.96

During the NFL's My Cleats for a Cause campaign in December, in which players wear cleats promoting a particular cause, nine players wore cleats addressing bullying. Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said, “Growing up, I was bullied and was the bully at times. I know the effects it has on children, and I want to change that culture.”97

A scene from an online anti-bullying video produced by Burger King (SAGE Publications, Inc./Screenshot)  
A scene from an online anti-bullying video produced by Burger King depicts actors playing students “bullying” another student at a Burger King restaurant, as real customers fail to intervene. The video went viral last year. Bystander intervention programs train people to intervene in a non-aggressive way to discourage bullies and protect victims. (SAGE Publications, Inc./Screenshot)

And Connor Williams, a star left tackle at the University of Texas, posted a letter on NFL.com in December recounting being bullied as a child because of his size and a speech impediment — and finding an oddly positive outcome from that experience. In response to that bullying, Williams said, his father set up a home gym for him, which ultimately helped propel him towards a career in football.

“It built me in ways unimaginable,” he said in his letter. “I am thankful I was the kid being bullied, and not the bully.”98

In October, National Bullying Prevention Month, Burger King launched an anti-bullying ad in which real customers watch as actors playing bullies torment an actor portraying a high school junior. The ad also shows Burger King employees “bullying” Whopper Jr. sandwiches by smashing them before wrapping them up and serving them to patrons.

Only 12 percent of the customers complained about the bullying of the student, but 95 percent complained about being served a “bullied” Whooper Jr.99

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Alarming Trends

Even as schools and policymakers step up efforts to curb cyberbullying, new, disturbing forms of online persecution are emerging. In one trend, called “roasting,” social media users post photos of themselves on social media sites such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit, along with the hashtag #roastme — essentially inviting other people to insult them.

The insults can be humorous and good-natured — or shockingly ugly. Middle schoolers told ABC News that some of their classmates reacted badly after online roasters compared their photos to animals. “Some people took it as a joke, and then others were actually crying about it,” one student said.

Stephanie Humphrey, who blogs and speaks about technology issues, said some teens' photos are posted without their knowledge. “They may already be suffering from depression,” she said of students who ask to be insulted. “This is the thing that could send them over the edge.”100

In a similar trend, surveys by the Cyberbullying Research Center show that about 6 percent of kids between 12 and 17 have bullied themselves online. “It's a new phenomenon,” center co-director Sameer Hinduja said in November. “We have a tendency to demonize the aggressor, but in some cases, maybe one out of 20, the aggressor and target are the same.”101

Social media sites and designers of mobile apps are working to reduce such problems. Instagram, which has been identified as a major platform for cyberbullying, is using artificial intelligence to identify and eliminate abusive comments. One of the app's new anti-bullying tools allows users to block entire groups of people, not just individuals. “As our community grows — now to 800 million — we are working to make Instagram the kindest and most inclusive online community,” Instagram CEO Marne Levine said.102

Instagram and other tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for not doing more to crack down on users who post hateful speech. In a 2015 memo, then-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told employees, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we've sucked at it for years.”103

Some experts worry that schoolyard bullying and cyberbullying will increase in sync with a rise in hate-oriented speech in society in general. In 2016, hate crimes — offenses such as murder, arson or vandalism that have an added element of bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity — rose to their highest level in almost 20 years, according to the FBI.104

Hate crimes “typically correlate with school bullying,” says Schwartz at the University of Houston. “If they see adults do it, kids do it, too.”

One issue that remains unresolved — and doesn't appear to be solvable anytime soon — is the clash between cyberbullying and free speech, particularly regarding comments made off-campus.

“Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to address the constitutionality of a criminal cyberbullying law,” said Patchin at the Cyberbullying Research Center. “There are certain things that people shouldn't be able to say online. There definitely is a line somewhere, but the courts haven't really defined where that line is.”105

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Should schools be required to intervene when students cyberbully other students off campus?


Justin W. Patchin, PH.D.
Co-Director, Cyberbullying Research Center; Professor, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Written for CQ Researcher, January 2018

Courts have ruled that schools must respond and cannot be deliberately indifferent to mistreatment that occurs on school grounds, particularly when those behaviors target someone because of his or her sex, race, disability or any other protected status. If a student is denied an education because of harassment at school, the school can be held accountable.

For example, a New York high school student was recently awarded $1 million when it was proven that the school knew about racial bullying that the student was experiencing, but failed to stop it.

But what about bullying that occurs away from school?

At least one in four students has experienced cyberbullying. They are tormented online in ways that can make learning at school more difficult. Yet many educators do not know if they are allowed to respond to these incidents that most often occur off campus. They can and they should.

Federal and state courts have determined that schools have the right to punish students for their off-campus behaviors, including what happens online, if it can be shown that whatever occurred away from school results in (or has a likelihood of resulting in) a substantial disruption of the learning environment at school or interferes with the rights of students.

There is no doubt that if a student is being mistreated online by a classmate, the student's ability to learn and feel safe at school is disrupted. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of students we surveyed in 2016 who said they had been cyberbullied reported that it “really affected their ability to learn and feel safe at school.” Our research also shows that most of the time when students are cyberbullied, they are also being bullied at school. Online abuse, therefore, could be an indicator of school-based bullying, to which schools are required to respond.

While it is unlikely that threats of punishment from the police will curb cyberbullying, we have found in our research that the threat of school punishment does prevent cyberbullying. So if schools clearly convey to students that those who cyberbully others will face school-based consequences, it is likely that cyberbullying behaviors will decrease. It is important, however, that the school's response is appropriate, reasonable and educational in nature. The ultimate purpose of a school intervention is to stop the bullying wherever it is occurring.


Carolyn Stone, ED.D.
Ethics Chairman, American School Counselor Association; Professor, University of North Florida. Written for CQ Researcher, January 2018

School safety is a critical issue, and education officials, courts and legislators have compelling reasons to craft policies, case law and statutes to protect students. But students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, and those rights also deserve protection.

In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District that to suppress student speech, school officials must prove the speech would “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.”

Since then, courts generally have ruled against restricting off-campus student speech when the connection to the school is inconclusive and there is no significant threat of disruption to school activities.

In Kowalski v. Berkeley County School District in West Virginia, an appellate court ruled that a school connection did exist. Kara Kowalski was disciplined for creating a MySpace page that invited others to bully another student. After she sued the school district, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in the district's favor, citing Tinker. The court said it was reasonably foreseeable that the MySpace comments would reach the school, and that “the nexus of Kowalski's speech was sufficiently strong to justify the action taken by school officials.”

In J.C. v. Beverly Hills Unified School District, courts sided with a student who was suspended for behavior similar to Kowalski's. The courts found that school officials violated the student's First Amendment rights by failing to show the online speech in question substantially disrupted school activities.

Other rulings have underscored the challenges involved in balancing students' free-speech rights with the need for a safe school environment.

In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to create a standard for defining substantial school disruption by issuing rulings in the Kowalski case and two others involving off-campus online student speech. Eight education associations filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to establish standards for regulating off-campus speech that, in the professional judgment of school officials, interferes with maintaining a safe and effective learning environment for all students.

But the court declined to accept the cases. Instead, it allowed the decisions of lower courts to stand, requiring educators to continue to evaluate off-campus speech and its potential for on-campus disruption without clear guidance from the justices.

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1970s–1980sBullying draws first serious study, particularly in Norway.
1970Swedish-born Dan Olweus begins first scientific study of bullying in Norway.
1978Olweus' book, Aggression in the Schools: Bullies and Whipping Boys, is published in the United States.
1983After three boys in Norway who were bullied commit suicide, Olweus creates the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
1990s–2007First state anti-bullying laws are passed; growth in cellphone and social media use spurs cyberbullying and leads to new challenges for schools.
1999Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold open fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 13 and injuring 23. Initial reports that the two had been bullied are later discredited, but the tragedy focuses new attention on bullying…. Georgia becomes the first state to pass anti-bullying legislation…. U.S. Supreme Court rules in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education that school officials in Macon, Ga., can be held liable for failing to act to prevent bullying.
2001Activists begin lobbying states to pass anti-bullying laws modeled on the Healthy Workplace Bill drafted by law professor David Yamada, director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.
2003Social networking site MySpace is founded.
2004A federal study of school shootings finds that almost three-quarters of attackers felt bullied, persecuted or threatened or had been injured…. Facebook is founded.
2006Twitter debuts…. Thirteen-year-old Megan Meier of Missouri kills herself in a case later linked to cyberbullying. The mother of one of her friends is later convicted of misdemeanor computer fraud but the conviction is overturned on appeal.
2007First introduction in Congress of Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require schools to prevent and respond to bullying and harassment. Versions of the bill are introduced in succeeding sessions, but none comes up for a vote.
2010-PresentFederal government hosts bullying prevention conferences, but the future of such efforts is called into question under President Trump, who is accused of stoking bullying on school campuses.
2010U.S. Department of Education (DOE) issues recommendations to help schools develop anti-bullying policies…. DOE and the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services hold the first Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit.
2011President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama host first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.
2014NFL report says harassment and bullying by teammates led Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin to quit the team and contributed to his mental health issues.
2015Montana becomes 50th state to ban bullying.
2016Donald Trump is widely accused of bullying political foes, often through Twitter, during a contentious presidential campaign and his first year in office…. FBI reports hate crimes reach highest level in almost 20 years…. Southern Poverty Law Center says bullying and harassment increase on school campuses because of the presidential election…. North Carolina Supreme Court strikes down state's cyberbullying law, saying it restricts free speech.
2017First lady Melania Trump begins a campaign against cyberbullying with speech at U.N. luncheon…. Anti-bullying advocate Prince William announces an online code of conduct for the United Kingdom called “Stop. Speak. Support.” … Democratic senators send a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, asking how she will reduce bullying at schools…. Texas legislators approve “David's Law,” specifically aimed at cyberbullying.

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Short Features

A victim calls the experience “emotional torture.”

Bullying isn't confined to classrooms or social media. It is growing in workplaces around the country.

In 2017, almost 10 percent of adults reported having been bullied at work in the past year, up from 7 percent in 2014. In both years, about 20 percent said they had been a bullied at some point in their career.1

While the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment of women, particularly in the political, entertainment and media fields, has captivated the country, it is “just the tip of the iceberg,” says Gary Namie, a social psychologist and co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, a Clarkston, Wash., advocacy organization. “Everything about sexual harassment is true about bullying.”

Experts say the dynamics of bullying typically are different than those of sexual harassment. Bullying involves an imbalance of power and an intent to harm another person. In sexual harassment — unwanted behavior that is sexual in nature — the harasser does not necessarily intend harm, and an imbalance of power may or may not be present.2

In a survey last year, the institute found that 70 percent of workplace bullies were male. In addition:

  • For both male and female perpetrators, two-thirds of their targets were female.

  • More than 60 percent of the perpetrators had a higher rank than their victims.

  • Only 13 percent of victims filed a complaint with their employer, while 5 percent filed either a lawsuit or a complaint with a government agency.3

Anti-discrimination laws apply in only 20 percent of bullying cases, and only if the victim is the target of discrimination because of race, gender, religion or another protected category, according to the institute.4

Namie says no state has passed a workplace anti-bullying law but that California mandates anti-bullying training for employers with 50 or more workers and Utah requires such training at state agencies.

Namie's organization is behind an effort to get anti-workplace bullying legislation passed at the state level nationwide. Since 2003 the Healthy Workplace Bill has been introduced in 30 states, but businesses have sought to block it, arguing it would infringe on management rights and that misconduct can be addressed through current non-discrimination laws, Namie says. The bill would allow employees to sue in civil court for monetary damages if they could prove they suffered physical or psychological harm because of an abusive work environment, and it would permit judicial orders to correct or stop bullying behavior.

Employers are “not ignoring the law. There is no law,” Namie complains. “They're allowed to get away with this with impunity.”

But many employer groups resist legislation. Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a Boston group that represents about 4,000 employers in the state, said bullying is “a hopelessly subjective term that makes the legalistic approach untenable.” A law could result in unfounded claims, it said.5

Supporters of the Healthy Workplace Bill argue, however, that it protects employers who use what the measure calls “reasonable care” to prevent or stop bullying and applies only to repeated offenses, unless the bullying is “especially severe and egregious.”6

Bullying “is emotional torture,” a Massachusetts state employee told The Boston Globe, speaking on the condition of anonymity because she feared retaliation. She said her supervisor and a colleague called her “stupid and incompetent” in meetings and said she walked like a “damn elephant” and left trash on her desk.7

Some workplaces have taken anti-bullying efforts into their own hands. The University of California, Berkeley, in October released its own Workplace Bullying Prevention Policy, which identifies unacceptable behaviors and sets out procedures for reporting and responding to bullying.8

Sweden passed the world's first workplace bullying law, in 1994, Namie says, while Britain considers workplace bullying cases under its anti-harassment law. The western Canadian province of British Columbia prohibits the behavior under its workers' compensation law.

Workplace bullying victims often show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, including insomnia, panic attacks, headaches and gastrointestinal problems, according to therapists who treat them.

“I had one person who was so anxious that she became psychotic” and took short-term disability leave, said Eunice Aviles, a Massachusetts psychotherapist in Amherst.9

A 2014 Ball State University study concluded that victims of workplace harassment and bullying were more likely to be state or local government employees; hourly workers; those holding multiple jobs; and those working a night shift or irregular hours. They also were more likely to be obese and to smoke.

Female victims were more likely to report migraine headaches and neck pain, males hypertension, angina, ulcers and asthma.

Victims reported anger, problems concentrating, reduced productivity and increased absenteeism. “Harassment or bullying suffered by American employees is severe and extremely costly for employers across the country,” said co-author Jagdish Khubchandani, a community health education professor at Ball State. “Harassment harms victims, witnesses and organizations where such interactions occur.”10

Meanwhile, almost 40 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees say they are being bullied at work, according to a survey by the online employment website CareerBuilder. Some victims said they were gossiped about or picked on for personal attributes such as appearance or gender.11

“It has such a negative impact, not only to the LGBT person,” said David Kilmnick, CEO of the LGBT Network on Long Island, N.Y. “But there are so many other people, non-LGBT folks, that don't want to hear this.”12

— Susan Ladika

[1] Gary Namie, “2017 Workplace Bullying Institute U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey,” Workplace Bullying Institute, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycdhw7pt; Gary Namie, “2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey,” Workplace Bullying Institute, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/pukl9t8.

[2] Julie Smolinski, “Sexual Harassment Versus Bullying,” American Association of University Women, Sept. 29, 2011, https://tinyurl.com/y8ookjcc.

[3] Namie, “2017 Workplace Bullying Institute U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey,” op. cit.

[4] Gary Namie and Ruth Namie, “Frequently Asked Questions,” Workplace Bullying Institute, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y83ye8qr.

[5] Beth Teitell, “Workplace bullying remains in the shadows,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 29, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8yau2qq. See “An Act addressing workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment, without regard to protected class status,” 2013–2014, https://tinyurl.com/ybtw3me8.

[6] David Lieberman, “To end sexual harassment on the job, stop workplace bullying,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 16, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ya2kylzv.

[7] Teitell, op. cit.

[8] “Staff Workplace Bullying Prevention Policy,” Berkeley Human Resources, Oct. 18, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycw6qw83.

[9] Teitell, op. cit.

[10] “Study: Workplace Harassment Might Make Employees Sick,” Ball State University, Dec. 10, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/y8hqkehh.

[11] “Two in Five LGBT Workers Feel Bullied at Work, According to Recent CareerBuilder Survey,” CareerBuilder, Oct. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y83wcgjt.

[12] Aimee Picchi, “A workplace epidemic of bullying LGBT employees,” CBS News, Oct. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yceavt7w.

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Judge says civility is “not readily attained or enforced” through state criminal statutes.

Every state has laws against in-person school bullying, and many also target online bullying by K-12 students. But crafting statutes that precisely target the kind of behavior that most schools define as cyberbullying without encroaching on free-speech rights can be tricky, experts say.

Part of the problem is that “bullying is a label that has no really clear definition,” says Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. When he was a child, he says, bullying generally was defined as a kid beating up a smaller classmate. Today, the term also encompasses verbal attacks, including the taunts, insults and hurtful rumors and gossip that some K-12 students post online.

Volokh questions the validity of state bullying laws that deny First Amendment protection to speech that he says might simply be “rude.” Some courts have taken the same view.

But Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, cautions against interpreting such rulings as evidence that online speech cannot be restricted at all. “We just have to be careful in how we craft these laws,” he said.13

In 2016, North Carolina's Supreme Court ruled that the state's cyberbullying law violated free-speech rights because it was “not narrowly tailored” to the state's stated aim of protecting children from online bullying.

The 2009 law had prohibited using computers to post — or encouraging others to post — “private, personal or sexual information pertaining to a minor” with “the intent to intimidate or torment a minor or the minor's parent.” But Justice Robin Hudson, writing for the seven-member court, noted that the law provided no definition of “intimidate” or “torment.”14

The case involved Robert Bishop, a high school student convicted in 2014 of joining classmates in posting derogatory Facebook comments — including sexual comments — about another student.15

“The statute sweeps far beyond the state's legitimate interest in protecting the psychological health of minors,” Hudson wrote. “Civility, whose definition is constantly changing, is a laudable goal but one not readily attained or enforced through criminal laws.”16

Other recent court rulings include a 2014 decision by the New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, throwing out a cyberbullying law that Albany County adopted in 2010. The law had prohibited electronic communications intended to “harass, annoy, threaten …or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person.”17

Appellate judge Victoria Graffeo wrote that the law “would criminalize a broad spectrum of speech outside the popular understanding of cyberbullying, including, for example, an email disclosing private information about a corporation or a telephone conversation meant to annoy an adult.”18

Albany County legislators approved an amended law in 2014. It narrows the definition of cyberbullying by limiting the crime to communication aimed only at minors and limiting the forms of electronic communication that constitute cyberbullying.19

“We very carefully tailored the new law to what the Court of Appeals said will be legally permissible,” said County Legislator Bryan Clenahan, the main sponsor. “I think it's going to protect a lot of kids.”20

The New York Civil Liberties Union opposed the new measure on free speech grounds, saying it “prohibits broadly defined categories of expression involving minors.”21

Barring particular types of speech by K-12 students can be constitutional, but only if that speech “substantially disrupts learning; interferes with the educational process or school discipline; uses school-owned technology to harass others, or threatens students or infringes on their civil rights,” according to Patchin and his co-director at the Cyberbullying Research Center, Sameer Hinduja.22

Texas state Sen. José Menéndez, a Democrat, said he was mindful of free-speech concerns when he drafted David's Law, named after 16-year-old David Molak, who killed himself in 2016 following what his family said was intense, repeated cyberbullying by classmates.

The law, which took effect in September and focuses mainly on prevention of cyberbullying in K-12 schools, makes it a criminal offense to electronically harass or cyberbully minors with the aim of causing them to harm themselves. Violators could face up to a year in jail. The law defines cyberbullying as “bullying that occurs on or is delivered to school property.”

Perpetrators also could be required to attend an alternative education program if they release or threaten to release “intimate visual material” of another student without that student's consent, or if they encourage another student to commit suicide or to incite violence against a classmate.23

“The Supreme Court has ruled our right to free speech is regulated by boundaries,” Menéndez said in 2016. “You …can't make threats against someone's life and defend it as free speech. Our goal with David's Law is to establish a boundary that you can't prey on children and coerce them or suggest to them they should commit suicide.”24

The Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which defends online civil liberties, opposed the law, calling it overly broad.25 “We need to approach the internet with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer,” says Adam Schwartz, the foundation's senior staff attorney.

— Susan Ladika

[13] David L. Hudson Jr., “Is Cyberbullying Free Speech?” ABA Journal, November 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ya9rzwbc.

[14] Anne Blythe, “NC Cyberbully Law Unconstitutional, NC Supreme Court Says,” The Charlotte Observer, June 10, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ybyoxsnw.

[15] Mark Binker, “NC Supreme Court Strikes Down Cyberbullying Law,” WRAL, June 10, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ycqcq9s6.

[16] State of North Carolina v. Robert Bishop, Supreme Court of North Carolina, June 10, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y77c6ky2.

[17] Daniel Wiessner, “N.Y. Top Court Says Cyberbullying Law Violates Free Speech,” Reuters, July 1, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/ycss4mpw.

[18] “People v. Marquan M.,” Justia, July 1, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/yantqtao.

[19] “Lethal Words: The Harmful Impact of Cyberbullying and the Need for Federal Criminalization,” Houston Law Review, April 29, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y93ttf8q.

[20] Tim O'Brien, “Albany County Passes New Version of Cyberbullying Law,” Times Union, Sept. 8, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/nv6ewkc.

[21] “NYCLU: New Albany Cyberbullying Bill Harms Youth,” New York Civil Liberties Union, Oct. 2, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/y87e9fjf.

[22] Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin, “Cyberbullying Legislation and Case Law, Implications for School Policy and Practice,” Cyberbullying Research Center, January 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y9ktn5p8.

[23] Jennifer Childress, “David's Law Combats Bullying in Schools,” Texas School Administrators' Legal Digest, Aug. 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8xslr2y.

[24] Mark Reagan, “How Would Texas' Cyberbullying Law Navigate the Murky Waters of Free Speech?” San Antonio Current, Aug. 25, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y8xljdxq.

[25] Adam Schwartz, “Texas' Overbroad Cyberbullying Bill Could Silence Unpopular Speech,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, Feb. 1, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/zjw5fuw.

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Hinduja, Sameer, and Justin Patchin , Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying , Second Edition, Sage Publications, 2015. A criminology professor at Florida Atlantic University (Hinduja) and a criminal justice professor at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire (Patchin), co-directors of the Cyberbullying Research Center, discuss how educators, policymakers and parents can respond to cyberbullying.


Blad, Evie , “Has Trump's Campaign Rhetoric Really Caused an Increase in School Bullying?” Education Week, Oct. 3, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/go8xbze. Experts weigh in on whether the president's rhetoric has increased school bullying, with some saying he sets a bad example and others saying it is too early to tell.

Saker, Anne , “Gabriel Taye's parents sue CPS, blame school bullying for 8-year-old's suicide,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 7, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7mf5crv. The family of an 8-year-old Cincinnati boy who killed himself after being bullied filed a wrongful death suit against the school district.

Siegel, Ezra , “Texas' Connor Williams pens reflection on bullying he faced as a child,” Dallas News, Dec. 21, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y6tww9et. A star University of Texas football player describes how being bullied as a child helped him excel in football.

Zaslow, Alexandra , “After suicide of teen David Molak, Texas family petitions against cyberbullying,” Today, Jan. 13, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ydydlwgn. The family of a teen who killed himself after being bullied online pushes for laws against cyberbullying in Texas.

Reports and Studies

“Student Reports of Bullying: Results from the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey,” National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, December 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ybmpk4u7. A federal agency that collects education data provides an in-depth look at bullying incidents involving 12- to 18-year-olds during the 2014–15 school year, with statistics on bullying by gender, race, age and other demographics.

Evans, Caroline B.R., Mark W. Fraser and Katie L. Cotter , “The effectiveness of school-based bullying prevention programs: A Systematic Review,” Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol. 19, Issue 5, September-October 2014, https://tinyurl.com/ydyy9g69. Bullying prevention programs tend to be more effective with homogenous populations than with heterogeneous ones, such as those found in the United States, according to researchers.

Hatzenbuehler, Mark L. , et al., “Associations Between Antibullying Policies and Bullying in 25 States,” JAMA Pediatrics, Oct. 5, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y9pgb7kv. Four university researchers examine state anti-bullying laws and the factors that make them effective.

Namie, Gary , “2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey,” Workplace Bullying Institute, June 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7epo6et. Nineteen percent of Americans have been bullied and another 19 percent have witnessed it, according to a survey that provides information about bullying victims and perpetrators.

Polanin, Joshua R., Dorothy L. Espelage and Therese D. Pigott , “A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Bullying Prevention Programs' Effects on Bystander Intervention Behavior,” School Psychology Review, March 2012, https://tinyurl.com/yd7xsem3. Programs that teach bystanders to intervene to stop bullying incidents can be effective, researchers conclude.

Potok, Mark , “The Trump Effect,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Feb. 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yaf7r6p5. A group that tracks hate crimes in the United States says harassment and bullying at schools have risen since the 2016 election campaign.

Rivara, Frederick, and Suzanne Le Menestrel , eds., “Preventing Bullying through Science, Policy, and Practice,” National Academies Press, 2016. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine examines bullying and cyberbullying, their effects on children who are victims, and possible interventions and laws that can help prevent bullying.

Sabia, Joseph J., and Brittany Bass , “Do Anti-Bullying Laws Work? New Evidence on School Safety and Youth Violence,” Journal of Population Economics, Nov. 22, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y8y8waee. Researchers say anti-bullying laws vary widely and that there is limited evidence they are effective.

Samaha, Albert , et al., “Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don't Know What To Do About It,” BuzzFeed News, June 6, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7g7sh9j. K-12 students are using President Trump's name and rhetoric to bully classmates, according to a 2017 review of 54 reported bullying incidents nationwide.

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The Next Step


Scheff, Sue , “Sparking A Teen and Parent Book Chat on Cyberbullying and Digital Wisdom,” HuffPost, Dec. 31, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y93qou47. Parents should talk openly with their children about internet safety and cyberbullying, says an expert on parenting in the internet age.

Wilson, Kirby , “Anti-cyberbullying activists wanted a Texas law with ‘teeth.’ They may have gotten one,” The Texas Tribune, Sept. 14, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y988bhrv. “David's Law,” enacted in Texas last year, contains a variety of provisions to tackle online bullying, including one that requires school districts to create programs to report and prevent such behavior.

Yancey-Bragg, N'dea , “Cyberbullying's chilling trend: Teens anonymously target themselves online, study finds,” USA Today, Nov. 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yc2gm6ev. New research shows 6 percent of kids aged 12 to 17 have bullied themselves online.


“School district changes bullying policy after child suicide,” The Associated Press, The (Clay Center) Dispatch, Jan. 7, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y73romrp. Cincinnati's public schools superintendent hired a social worker with stress management expertise and instituted more training for teachers and staff in response to an 8-year-old bullying victim's suicide last year.

Holt, Melissa , “Bullying and Suicide: What's the Connection?” Scientific American, The Conversation, Aug. 12, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9p39b6x. Bullying victims as well as perpetrators are more likely to consider and attempt suicide than other children, according to an assistant psychology professor at Boston University.

Lynch, Jamiel , “Police accuse two students, age 12, of cyberbullying in suicide,” CNN, Jan. 24, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y89xv5jf. Police said one of two middle-schoolers charged with cyberstalking in the suicide of a 12-year-old girl admitted to spreading vicious rumors about the girl.

Trump's Influence

Abernathy, Gary , “Trump is right to bully America's enemies,” The Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y7kqs5yg. President Trump's confrontational style in dealing with rogue-nation dictators and terrorist organizations may look like bullying but is more effective than the “spinelessness” of past administrations, a columnist writes.

Strauss, Valerie , “Stress, hostility rising in American high schools in Trump era, new UCLA report finds,” The Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yb9gefu8. High school students have shown higher levels of anxiety and greater hostility toward racial and religious minorities since President Trump's election, according to a new report.


Lieberman, David , “To end sexual harassment on the job, end workplace bullying,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 16, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ya2kylzv. The Healthy Workplace Bill drafted by David Yamada, legislative director of the Healthy Workplace Campaign and a university law professor, is an excellent model for potential state and federal legislation aimed at ending bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace, says an associate professor at the progressive New School University in New York City.

Picchi, Aimee , “A workplace epidemic of bullying LGBT employees,” CBS News, Oct. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yceavt7w. About four in 10 LGBT workers have experienced bullying in the workplace, according to a 2017 study by the online employment site CareerBuilder.

Teitell, Beth , “Workplace bullying remains in the shadows,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 30, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8yau2qq. The national focus on sexual harassment has largely eclipsed the issue of bullying in the workplace, which can be just as damaging, the author writes.

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Cyberbullying Research Center
Provides information on cyberbullying to educators, parents, law enforcement and youths.

David's Legacy Foundation
PO Box 90732, San Antonio, TX 78209
Advocacy group that seeks to end cyberbullying.

PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center
8161 Normandale Blvd., Bloomington, MN 55437
Educates communities, parents and youth on ways to fight bullying.

Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104
Advocates against hatred and bigotry.

STOMP Out Bullying
Works to end bullying and cyberbullying.

The Trevor Project
PO Box 69232, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Workplace Bullying Institute
P.O. Box 578, Clarkston, WA 99403
Focuses on researching and ending workplace bullying.

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[1] Madalyn Mendoza, “After suicide, a brother calls out bullying,” San Antonio Express-News, Jan. 7, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y8ud58tq.

[2] Alicia VanOrman and Beth Jarosz, “Suicide Replaces Homicide as Second-Leading Cause of Death Among U.S. Teenagers,” Population Reference Bureau, June 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y96klgjs; “Teen Suicide & Depression,” American Society for the Positive Care of Children, undated, https://tinyurl.com/y7vcx3s6.

[3] “What Is Bullying,” stopbullying.gov, Sept. 28, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yc9l3ndu; “Trends in Bullying at School Among Students Ages 12 to 18,” Data Point, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yccp6lzp.

[4] Melissa Diliberti et al., “Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2015–16,” National Center for Education Statistics, July 2017, table 5, https://tinyurl.com/yajr3kss; Samantha Neiman and Monica R. Hill, “Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2009–10,” National Center for Education Statistics, May 2011, table 6, https://tinyurl.com/y7n8qam7.

[5] Tammy B. Pham et al., “Weapon Carrying Among Victims of Bullying,” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, November 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y955xn76.

[6] “Youth More Likely to be Bullied at Schools with Anti-Bullying Programs, UT Arlington Researcher Finds,” University of Texas-Arlington, Sept. 12, 2013, https://tinyurl.com/y7r6vggg.

[7] “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation's Schools,” Southern Poverty Law Center, April 13, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/h2dsjex.

[8] Mark Keierleber, “School Bullying, Civic Engagement and the First Amendment in Donald Trump's America,” the74million.org, https://tinyurl.com/y93w3sgs; Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969),” Justia, June 9, 1969, https://tinyurl.com/m6q3a7l.

[9] National Center for Education Statistics, op. cit.; “2016 Cyberbullying Data,” Cyberbullying Research Center, Nov. 26, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y9xq2z97.

[10] Frederick Rivara and Suzanne Le Menestrel, eds., Preventing Bullying through Science, Policy and Practice (2016), p. 45, https://tinyurl.com/yd8cqt3k; “Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2015–16,” op. cit., table 4; “Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2009–10,” op. cit., table 5.

[11] Pham et al., op. cit.

[12] Ibid.; “Adolescent victimization and associated suicidal and violent behaviors,” Adolescence, Winter 2000, https://tinyurl.com/y8ojkz2s.

[13] Bryan Vossekuil et al., “The Final Report And Findings Of The Safe School Initiative: Implications For The Prevention Of School Attacks In The United States,” U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education, July 2004, https://tinyurl.com/mgy6gj6.

[14] Peter Langman, “Statistics on Bullying and School Shootings,” Nov. 25, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/ycebljnj.

[15] Gail McCallion and Jody Feder, “Student Bullying: Overview of Research, Federal Initiatives, and Legal Issues,” Congressional Research Service, Oct. 18, 2013, https://tinyurl.com/yc25gml9.

[16] Ryan Van Bibber, “The Worst of the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin Report,” SB Nation, Feb. 14, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/y7pu2brh.

[17] “The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What it Means for Schools,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, undated, https://tinyurl.com/y7s9pvet.

[18] “Effects of Bullying,” stopbullying.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sept. 12, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7tbo2eo.

[19] “Bullying Statistics & Information,” American Society for the Positive Care of Children, undated, https://tinyurl.com/ybjbrzkd.

[20] “2017 WBI U.S. Survey: National Prevalence, 60.3 Million Workers Affected by Workplace Bullying,” Workplace Bullying Institute, June 23, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ydz3yxwk.

[21] Rivara and Le Menestrel, eds., op. cit.

[22] Emily Suski, “Simply punishing students for bullying will not address the problem,” The Conversation, April 12, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ybp4rykv.

[23] David Farrington and Maria Ttofi, “School-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization,” Campbell Collaboration, Dec. 15, 2009, https://tinyurl.com/y7yz639b; McCallion and Feder, op. cit.

[24] “Youth More Likely to be Bullied at Schools with Anti-Bullying Programs, UT Arlington Researcher Finds,” op. cit.

[25] Caroline B.R. Evans, Mark W. Fraser and Katie L. Cotter, “The effectiveness of school-based bullying prevention programs. A systematic review,” Aggression and Violent Behavior, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/y7kuk76t.

[26] Marc Brackett and Diana Divecha, “School Anti-Bullying Programs Ineffective,” The Hartford Courant, Sept. 6, 2013, https://tinyurl.com/yd2ks7d4.

[27] Ibid.

[28] “Causes of Bullying,” American Society for the Positive Care of Children, undated, https://tinyurl.com/y7mgpo3m.

[29] Joshua R. Polanin, Dorothy L. Espelage and Therese D. Pigott, “A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Bullying Prevention Programs' Effects on Bystander Intervention Behavior,” School Psychology Review, March 2012, https://tinyurl.com/yd7xsem3.

[30] Stuart Wolpert, “Anti-Bullying Program Focused on Bystanders Helps the Students Who Need it the Most,” University of California-Los Angeles, Feb. 1, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ycgls2zm.

[31] Brackett and Divecha, op. cit.

[32] Virginia Pelley, “What's the Recipe for an Effective Anti-Bullying Policy?” The Atlantic, Nov. 13, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/ya2f8gt7.

[33] Mark D. Wilson, “No Charges Will be Filed in the Suicide of David Molak, Bexar County District Attorney Says,” MySanAntonio.com, May 11, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y8wvunwr.

[34] Joseph J. Sabia and Brittany Bass, “Do Anti-Bullying Laws Work? New Evidence on School Safety and Youth Violence,” Journal of Population Economics, Springer Link, Nov. 22, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ybzss5ch; Mark L. Hatzenbuehler et al., “Associations between Anti-Bullying Policies and Bullying in 25 States,” JAMA Pediatrics, Oct. 5, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y9pgb7kv.

[35] Jen Christensen, “Anti-Bullying Laws Appear to be Working,” CNN.com, Oct. 8, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/qezw4oj.

[36] Sabia and Bass, op. cit.

[37] Rivara and Le Menestrel, op. cit.

[38] Amanda Taurino, “The Efficacy of Anti-Bullying Laws,” The Century Foundation, Dec. 16, 2013, https://tinyurl.com/yadp5pr6.

[39] “Specific State Laws Against Bullying,” FindLaw.com, undated, https://tinyurl.com/zecwtrh.

[40] “Bullying Laws Across America,” op. cit.

[41] Dewey G. Cornell and Susan P. Limber, “Do U.S. laws go far enough to prevent bullying at school?” American Psychological Association, February 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yc7r298m.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Ed., FindLaw.com, undated, https://tinyurl.com/ya9jtgaq.

[44] “What You Need To Know About David's Law — The New Anti-Bullying Bill,” Walsh Gallegos law firm, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ydxe35ft.

[45] “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation's Schools,” op. cit.

[46] Benjamin Wermund, “Putting the ‘Trump Effect’ to the Test,” Politico, Jan. 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yaznvlsk.

[47] Suyin Haynes, “Melania Trump Urges Adults to Teach Children About Cyberbullying ‘By Our Own Example,’” Time, Sept. 21, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycwx8su9.

[48] Michael Stratford, “After calling Trump a bully, Clinton campaign announces anti-bullying plan,” Politico, Oct. 27, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ybgxw5qt.

[49] Tina Trent, “Southern Poverty Law Center invents lucrative new hate crime: The Trump Effect,” Canada Free Press, Nov, 29, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y7buaytv.

[50] Paul Sperry, “Report buried Trump-related ‘hate crimes’ against white kids,” New York Post, Dec. 5, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/h2uy858.

[51] Ray Routhier, “Student in pro-Trump hat sets off taunting, dialogue at South Portland High,” Press Herald, April 12, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ycle4pfs.

[52] Anya Kamenetz, “4 Myths about School Bullying and the ‘Trump Effect,’” NPR, Oct. 28, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y7yugjpl.

[53] Mark Potok, “The Trump Effect,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Feb. 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yaf7r6p5.

[54] Jeff Mason, “Bush Takes Veiled Swipe at Trump, Defends Immigration and Trade,” Reuters, Oct. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ybxv5shr.

[55] Evie Blad, “Has Trump's Campaign Rhetoric Really Caused an Increase in School Bullying?” Education Week, Oct. 3, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/go8xbze.

[56] “Murray, Senators Demand DeVos Enforce Civil Rights Laws in Schools as Incidents of Harassment, Bullying, and Racism are on the Rise Following President Trump's Election,” U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Oct. 25, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7bt4p47.

[57] Louis Nelson and Rebecca Morin, “Melania Trump Condemns Bullying at U.N. Luncheon,” Politico, Sept. 20, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ydanuyes.

[58] “Brief Information about Dan Olweus,” Olweus-Gruppen MOT Mobbing, May 2010, https://tinyurl.com/y8zqsbq2.

[59] “Olweus Bullying Prevention Program,” Clemson University, undated, https://tinyurl.com/yafsq65t.

[60] “Olweus Bullying Prevention Program,” Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development,” undated, https://tinyurl.com/y9unk74q.

[61] “Introduction to Mobbing in the Workplace and an Overview of Adult Bullying,” NASW Press, Nov. 20, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y8b82h9x.

[62] Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969),” Justia, Feb. 24, 1969, https://tinyurl.com/jrz5den.

[63] Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools II, FindLaw.com, undated, accessed Jan. 17, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y8vpcx47.

[64] “Court Blocks WA School from Suspending Student over Humorous Web Site,” American Civil Liberties Union, Feb. 23, 2000, https://tinyurl.com/ya5dvn32.

[65] “Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Ed.,” op. cit.

[66] Morrow v. Balaski, FindLaw, June 5, 2013, https://tinyurl.com/ybglbpt6.

[67] Mark Walsh, “Supreme Court Declines to Take up School Bullying Case,” Education Week, Dec. 16, 2013, https://tinyurl.com/pcl8p3m.

[68] Diane M. Holben and Perry A. Zirkel, “School Bullying Litigation: An Empirical Analysis of the Case Law,” Akron Law Review, June 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y7ocxahh.

[69] “Anti-Bullying Legislation,” NoBullying.com, March 16, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y9js77f2; Lisa Baumann, “Gov. Bullock Signs Montana Anti-Bullying Bill into Law,” The Missoulian, April 21, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/yaxfcobf.

[70] “Key Policy Letters from the Education Secretary and Deputy Secretary,” U.S. Department of Education, Dec. 16, 2010, https://tinyurl.com/y7j2r77z.

[71] “Key Components in State Anti-Bullying Laws,” StopBullying.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 31, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/y7mprqko.

[72] “October is National Bullying Prevention Month,” PACER, undated, accessed Jan. 22, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/3ta9bbm.

[73] “U.S. Education Secretary to Keynote Department's First Ever Bullying Summit,” U.S. Department of Education, undated, accessed Jan. 22, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yavudu4y; Sarah Sisaye, “2016 Federal Bullying Prevention Summit Explores Themes of Tolerance and Inclusion,” stopbullying.Gov, Sept. 27, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yay8u2oc.

[74] “U.S. Education Secretary to Keynote Department's First Ever Bullying Summit,” U.S. Department of Education, undated, accessed Jan. 22, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yavudu4y.

[75] Nia-Malika Henderson, “Obama Speaks Out against Bullying, Says ‘I Wasn't Immune,’” The Washington Post, March 11, 2011, https://tinyurl.com/y6vbkpsu.

[76] “Columbine High School Shootings Fast Facts,” CNN.com, April 5, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/h7q9n9c; Vossekuil et al., op. cit.

[77] Ibid., Vossekuil et al.

[78] Amanda Lenhart, “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview,” Pew Research Center Internet & Technology, April 9, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/mrf2cxw.

[79] Kim Zetter, “Judge Acquits Lori Drew in Cyberbullying Case, Overrules Jury,” Wired, July 2, 2009, https://tinyurl.com/yd35uz8a.

[80] Kayla Webley, “Teens Who Admitted to Bullying Phoebe Prince Sentenced,” Time, May 5, 2011, https://tinyurl.com/3g2xv5y.

[81] Nate Schweber and Lisa W. Foderaro, “Roommate in Tyler Clementi Case Pleads Guilty to Attempted Invasion of Privacy,” The New York Times, Oct. 27, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yb9xuza9.

[82] “H.R. 1957 — Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2017,” Congress.gov, April 5, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yamoa8uf.

[83] “Linda Sánchez and Carlos Curbelo Lead Bipartisan Group to Introduce Anti-Bullying Legislation,” Rep. Linda Sánchez website, April 6, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7fkun9f.

[84] Al Weaver, “Rep. Dan Donovan Makes Anti-Bullying Push amid Melania Trump Effort,” Washington Examiner, Nov. 6, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y74czsqo.

[85] Jessie Balmert, “School Bullies Could Face Criminal Charges under Ohio Bill,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct. 4, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y93u9mzs.

[86] Gray Rohrer, “Bullied Students Could Get State Scholarships to Private Schools,” The Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 11, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9swtew7.

[87] “Parents in New York Town Could Face Jail, Fine under New Anti-Bullying Law,” ABC News, Oct. 10, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yc42kbeg; “Journal Times editorial: City's anti-bullying proposal has merit,” The Journal Times, Nov. 24, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9wvor5n.

[88] Dan Sewell, “Ohio parents' wrongful death lawsuit tests school liability in bullying, child suicide,” The Associated Press, Portland Press Herald, Aug. 12, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y88whefp.

[89] Alexandra Mondalek, “When bullying leads to suicide, are schools responsible?” Yahoo Lifestyle, Dec. 21, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8ebc2dr.

[90] Andrew Wolfson, “Are Schools Liable in Suicides? Ky. High Court Hears Case,” USA Today, March 23, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/ycxwzxpx; Bruce Schreiner, “Kentucky Court Rules in Alleged School Bullying Case,” The Seattle Times, March 17, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y8exousf.

[91] Anne Saker, “Cincinnati Public Schools: Sorry about Gabriel Taye, but we didn't cause his suicide,” Cincinnati.com, Oct. 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9db2qqx.

[92] State of North Carolina v. Robert Bishop, Supreme Court of North Carolina, The Washington Post, June 10, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y77c6ky2.

[93] Anne Blythe, “NC cyberbully law unconstitutional, NC Supreme Court says,” The News & Observer, June 12, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y78jrecx.

[94] Carolyn Durand and Katie Kindelan, “Prince William Releases First-Ever Online Code of Conduct to Combat Cyberbullying,” ABC News, Nov. 16, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ydd59dv3.

[95] Ibid.

[96] “New York Jets/MCU Host Third Annual Bullying Awareness Day,” STOMP Out Bullying, undated, accessed Jan. 9, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/ychpyzew.

[97] Jim Buzinski, “9 NFL Players to Wear Special Cleats Raising Awareness of Bullying,” HuffPost, Dec. 3, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yagmydm3.

[98] Ezra Siegel, “Texas' Connor Williams Pens Reflection on Bullying He Faced as a Child,” DallasNews.com, Dec. 21, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y6tww9et.

[99] Megan McCluskey, “This Anti-Bullying PSA from Burger King Emphasizes the Importance of See Something, Say Something,” Time, Oct. 23, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9vq2pvj.

[100] “What parents should know about roasting, a new cyberbullying trend,” ABC News, Aug. 25, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7qhvuwx.

[101] N'dea Yancey-Bragg, “Cyberbullying's chilling trend: Teens anonymously target themselves online, study finds,” USA Today, Nov. 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yc2gm6ev.

[102] Nicole Pelletiere, “Instagram unveils tools to help fight cyberbullying,” ABC News, Sept. 27, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y734k9hj.

[103] Nitasha Tiku and Casey Newton, “Twitter CEO: ‘We suck at dealing with abuse,’” The Verge, Feb. 4, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/yacylext.

[104] Sam Petulla, Tammy Kupperman and Jessica Schneider, “The Number of Hate Crimes Rose in 2016,” CNN.com, Nov. 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9ama5zt.

[105] David L. Hudson Jr., “Is Cyberbullying Free Speech?” ABA Journal, November 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ya9rzwbc.

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About the Author

Susan Ladika, author of this week's edition of CQ Researcher  

Susan Ladika is a freelance writer in Tampa, Fla., whose work has appeared in HR Magazine, Workforce, Bankrate.com, CreditCards.com, Science, The Wall Street Journal-Europe and International Educator. She previously worked as a writer and editor for newspapers in the Southeast, including The Tampa Tribune, and also reported from Europe for The Associated Press.

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Document APA Citation
Ladika, S. (2018, February 2). Bullying and cyberbullying. CQ researcher, 28, 97-120. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
Document ID: cqresrre2018020200
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2018020200
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Education Issues
Feb. 02, 2018  Bullying and Cyberbullying
Mar. 10, 2017  Charter Schools
Feb. 03, 2017  Civic Education
Sep. 05, 2014  Race and Education
Jun. 13, 2014  Dropout Rate
May 09, 2014  School Discipline
Mar. 07, 2014  Home Schooling
Dec. 02, 2011  Digital Education
Nov. 15, 2011  Expanding Higher Education
Dec. 10, 2010  Preventing Bullying Updated
Apr. 16, 2010  Revising No Child Left Behind
Mar. 26, 2010  Teen Pregnancy
Sep. 04, 2009  Financial Literacy
Jun. 05, 2009  Student Rights
Feb. 22, 2008  Reading Crisis?
Jul. 13, 2007  Students Under Stress
Apr. 27, 2007  Fixing Urban Schools Updated
Nov. 10, 2006  Video Games Updated
Mar. 03, 2006  AP and IB Programs
Oct. 07, 2005  Academic Freedom
Aug. 26, 2005  Evaluating Head Start
May 27, 2005  No Child Left Behind
Jan. 17, 2003  Home Schooling Debate
Sep. 06, 2002  Teaching Math and Science
Jun. 07, 2002  Grade Inflation
Dec. 07, 2001  Distance Learning
Apr. 20, 2001  Testing in Schools
May 14, 1999  National Education Standards
Apr. 10, 1998  Liberal Arts Education
Jul. 26, 1996  Attack on Public Schools
May 17, 1996  Year-Round Schools
Oct. 20, 1995  Networking the Classroom
Sep. 22, 1995  High School Sports
Jan. 20, 1995  Parents and Schools
Sep. 09, 1994  Home Schooling
Mar. 25, 1994  Private Management of Public Schools
Mar. 11, 1994  Education Standards
Apr. 09, 1993  Head Start
Nov. 30, 1990  Conflict Over Multicultural Education
Feb. 05, 1988  Preschool: Too Much Too Soon?
Oct. 23, 1987  Education Reform
Aug. 24, 1984  Status of the Schools
Sep. 10, 1982  Schoolbook Controversies
Sep. 03, 1982  Post-Sputnik Education
Aug. 18, 1978  Competency Tests
Jan. 26, 1972  Public School Financing
Nov. 03, 1971  Education for Jobs
Apr. 15, 1970  Reform of Public Schools
Aug. 27, 1969  Discipline in Public Schools
Dec. 27, 1968  Community Control of Public Schools
Jun. 14, 1965  Summer School Innovations
Oct. 28, 1964  Education of Slum Children
Jun. 05, 1963  Year-Round School
Mar. 28, 1962  Mentally Retarded Children
Dec. 17, 1958  Educational Testing
Sep. 25, 1957  Liberal Education
Jul. 11, 1956  Educational Exchange
Feb. 02, 1955  Federal Aid for School Construction
Mar. 07, 1951  Education in an Extended Emergency
Nov. 20, 1945  Postwar Public Education
Nov. 07, 1941  Standards of Education
Diversity Issues
Early Childhood Education
Education Policy
Freedom of Speech and Press
Internet and Social Media
Mental Health
Students and Social Life
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