Bullying Law and Legal Definition

Bullying is generally defined as an intentional act that causes harm to others, and may involve verbal harassment, verbal or non-verbal threats, physical assault, stalking, or other methods of coercion such as manipulation, blackmail, or extortion. It is aggressive behavior that intends to hurt, threaten or frighten another person. An imbalance of power between the aggressor and the victim is often involved. Bullying occurs in a variety of contexts, such as schools, workplaces, political or military settings, and others.

Laws and policies governing bullying vary by state and entity. As of March 2007, 30 states have enacted harassment, intimidation and bullying statutes. In 2007, Iowa enacted anti-harassment and anti-bullying legislation. During the 2005-2006 legislative sessions, eleven states - Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia - enacted new policies, and four states - Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois and Vermont - amended or expanded statutes.


The following is an example of a school policy defining bullying:

For the purpose of this policy, “bullying” means any physical act or gesture or any verbally, written or electronically communicated expression that”

A. A reasonable person should expect will have the effect of:

1. Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property.

2. Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to his/her property; or

3. Substantially disrupting the instructional program or the orderly operations of the school; or

4. Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, hostile educational environment for the student who is bullied.