Bullying and Harassment

As noted in CSG Education Policy Analyst Tim Weldon’s blog, preventing bullying remains a top priority for educators and policymakers, whether it occurs in school or cyberspace.  Here are state bills the CSG Committee on Suggested State Legislation reviewed about bullying, cyberbullying, and impersonating someone online, along with related resources about these topics.

North Dakota has become the ninth state in the Midwest to enact a law designed to combat the problem of bullying in schools. 

The Act defines harassment as creating a hostile environment that unreasonably and substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being, or conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for their physical safety. 
The bill prohibits harassment and discrimination of students with respect to certain non-exclusive protected classes, including, but not limited to, a student’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. 
This Act requires school districts to adopt policies to create a school environment free from harassment and discrimination. School districts must also adopt guidelines for school training programs that raise awareness and sensitivity of school employees to these issues and enables them to respond appropriately. Schools must designate at least one staff member in each school to be trained in non-discriminatory instructional and counseling. 

Although bullying has long been a problem educators have faced, we are now seeing tragic results of taunting and bullying through social networking websites, text messages and other electronic means that were not available just a few years ago. School systems and state policymakers are beginning to look at measures to prevent cyberbullying and punish those who engage in it.