When Bullying Crosses the Line
Some forms of peer aggression can cross the line and have criminal or civil implications under the law.
The majority of bullying behaviors are most appropriately responded to by supervising adults. In some instances, however, peer aggression may cross the line into illegal activities. When a crime is committed, students who are targeted may be eligible for support from the local victim services agency. If civil liability is suspected, parents should contact an attorney.
Examples of potential crimes and civil laws that may be implicated in bullying situations are listed in the chart below.
Public schools should be aware of their responsibilities to address certain forms of bullying under federal and state civil rights laws. Specifically, when bullying targets a child’s protected class, schools are obligated to provide a remedy and prevent the bullying from reoccurring. Protected classes include race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability or other characteristic. When schools fail to respond effectively, parents may file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and/or the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.