Bullying has been in the news a lot lately. Although being bullied used to be considered a normal part of childhood and adolescence, in recent years laws have been passed to outlaw it and there has been a public outcry against it.
Statistics show that bullying can be dangerous for the mental health of children and teens. Although bullying itself has not been shown to cause suicide, those who are bullied are more likely to be depressed and to attempt suicide. In addition, many teens who do commit suicide have experienced at least some type of bullying.
Currently, 49 states, including New York, have laws against bullying. Five of those states don’t have any punishment for bullying, while 12 impose criminal punishments, ranging from suspension from school up to jail time. Usually, however, bullying is handled by the school, since most bullying occurs at school. All 49 states that have anti-bullying laws require schools to set up school policies to stop bullying.
New York has several anti-bullying statutes. The Dignity for All Students Act says students in public schools are entitled to an environment free from harassment based on race, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. The law includes behavior that occurs off school property. Regulations also require each board of education to adopt and enforce a code of conduct that would include disciplinary measures taken against bullies. There are also two bills that haven’t been signed into law that would specifically prohibit cyber-bullying, as well as to make certain actions taken by a bully a misdemeanor.
Although there have always been kids who have gotten picked on, and other kids who enjoyed picking on others, in today’s world being accused of bullying can be serious. It not only leads to school repercussions, such as suspension, but can lead to criminal sanctions and civil lawsuits.