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Learn about the issues surrounding bullying, your school's responsibilities and what you can do for preventing and responding to unwanted conduct. 

"Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school."

Bullying Statistics

One out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied at school. Bullied students reported that bullying occurred in the following places: the hallway or stairwell at school (43%), inside the classroom (42%), in the cafeteria (27%), outside on school grounds (22%), online or by text (15%), in the bathroom or locker room (12%), and on the school bus (8%).

Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. Bullied students indicate that bullying has a negative effect on how they feel about themselves (27%), their relationships with friends and family (19%), their school work (19%), and physical health (14%). Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems than students who only bully or are only bullied.


National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019

Bullying Information and Resources

What is Bullying?

Definitions commonly include the concept of willful repeated acts intended to harm a victim. Bullying is not merely horseplay or teasing. The intent is to harm. Such intent is often the social norm, for example, “jocks” picking on “nerds” or cliques targeting a student for ridicule, isolation, and exclusion. Usually, power is distributed unequally between the victim and the perpetrator(s). 


We define bullying as repeated and systematic abuse and harassment of another. Bullying and ridiculing conduct includes name-calling, mimicking, indifference and exclusion, invasions of personal space, inappropriate touching, physical violence (hitting, kicking, pushing, shoving), gender and sex-based bullying, and extortion.


A survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 10,000 children stayed home from school at least once a month because they feared bullies. Half the children surveyed said they were bullied once a week.


Through the Victim’s Lens

In defining bullying, the focus should be on the impact the behavior is having on the target. This direction has been well developed in illegal harassment law and successfully narrows the field of harassment so that it does not include every type of incivility.


Better policy language will include the McGrath 5-point Criteria™, which has been assembled based on case experience and statutory law. Focusing on the actions taken, determines those actions are:


  1. Not accidental and are the cause of harm

  2. Unwelcomed

  3. Severe, persistent, or pervasive; and

  4. Have resulted in unreasonable interference with the opportunity to receive an education.

  5. That interference is unreasonable as determined by the subjective reaction of the victim as well as by the reaction of a “reasonable person similarly situated” to the victim.


Notice that none of the legal criteria deal with what the bully’s intent may have been. It all focuses on the target and the impact on him or her.


Bullying: A Legal Issue

Liability for bullying is becoming an increasingly worrisome issue for school districts across the United States. Parents are holding school districts civilly responsible for investigating and intervening in incidents of bullying. And the courts are backing them up, holding both school districts and individual employees liable for failing to stop the bullying through education, intervention, and investigation. 


Nearly every state has introduced or enacted bullying legislation that mandates school districts to intervene or prevent persistent, pervasive, and/or severe acts of bullying action. 


Bullying which takes the form of assault or battery is prohibited by state criminal law. Schools must have a policy that outlines detecting and investigating incidents, rumors, and complaints and remedying each situation. Educators and staff must be trained to identify the warning signs that bullying is taking place. Site administrators, counselors, and others who receive complaints from students, parents, and staff must know exactly how to proceed if the district is to protect students from harm and protect itself from liability.

Important to Know

The US Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights have alerted schools that:

  • Student misconduct that falls under an anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the anti-discrimination statutes enforced by OCR.

  • A school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.

Governmental regulations and school policies tell you what to do. McGrath programs support educators to tell you specifically how to comply with the requirements of regulatory and board policies.

Our McGrath Response System™ courses provide clear methods and procedures to meet these legal requirements and practical tools that participants implement to prevent and neutralize the effects of bullying. The interaction of human dynamics and defined legal requirements are combined to provide the resolution of day-to-day issues and policy requirements that will create a safe and productive environment. 


Learn how to do what you must do to protect students from harm and your district from liability. 

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