Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Some students use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm others. Bullying behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Bullying is any action that:
- Causes a student to fear harm to themselves or their belongings
- Harms a student's physical or mental health
- Affects a student's grades or class participation
- Affects a student's desire or ability to take part in school activities
- Physical violence
- Sexual harassment or sexual violence
- Public humiliation
- Destruction of property
- Punishment for asserting or alleging an act of bullying
Where, when, and how these actions happen determines if they are considered bullying. Schools are required to take action if any of these actions happen:
- During any school-sponsored education program or activity
- While in school, on school property, on school buses or other school vehicles, at designated school bus stops waiting for the school bus, or at school-sponsored or school-sanctioned events or activities
- Through the spread of information from a school computer, a school computer network, or other similar electronic school equipment
- Through the spread of information from a non-school computer or electronic device if the bullying causes a substantial disruption at school (under certain circumstances)
Cyberbullying is also against the law. A cyberbully uses technology or electronic communication to bully someone else. This site gives parents and teachers ways to set up rules about digital behavior.
- Directly communicating with someone through instant messages or internet communications
- Impersonating a person on a webpage or weblog
- Posting information on an electronic platform, like a website, that more than one person can see
Stopping bullying at school
It is crucial that schools prevent bullying because:
- Bullying makes a school’s climate and culture harmful and unsafe for everyone
- Harassment prevents students from focusing on learning
- Bullying can harm mental health, and emotional wellbeing can negatively affect academic performance and are linked to harmful behaviors for bullies and the students being bullied
School districts are required to take action to stop bullying from happening. Some of these steps include:
- Creating rules about bullying
- Making sure that students and parents/guardians know about the bullying rules
- Designating specific school employees to deal with bullying issues
- Communicating the contact information for selected school employees to students and parents/guardians
- Sending the bullying policy to the State Board of Education
- Reviewing the bullying rules every two years and posting the results on their website
The Illinois State Board of Education is in charge of watching over each school district to make sure they do these things. For information about what schools can do see this site.
School districts are required to take action to stop bullying as soon as it happens. Some of these actions include:
- Investigating reports of bullying within ten days
- Notifying parents/guardians or students involved in bullying
- Before schools use suspension and expulsion to address bullying, trying to solve the situation using:
- School social or counseling work services
- Social-emotional skill building
- School psychological services
- Community-based services
- Restorative measures
Students report that most of the bullying they experience is motivated by bias or discrimination based on certain characteristics such as:
Additionally, students report that bad outcomes, such as depression, increased absences from school, and lack of school engagement, increase significantly as the number of personal characteristics involved in bullying increases.
It is against the law to bully anyone based on:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Physical or mental disability
- Military status
- Unfavorable discharge from military service
- Sexual orientation
- Gender-related identity or expression
- Association with a person or group with one or more of the characteristics mentioned
- Any other distinguishing characteristic
Bullying someone based on any of those characteristics may also count as discrimination that violates other laws as well. Therefore, when bullying happens, school districts should find out if it was bias-based bullying.
How to report bullying
If you think your child is being bullied because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, body shape or size, or any other distinguishing characteristic, and the school district is not taking action to stop it; you can file a complaint. The bullying prevention policies of a majority of districts in Illinois list the names and contact information of 2 complaint coordinators. You can find your school’s bullying prevention policy in the Board Policy Manual, which is often online or asks your school’s front office staff. For more information, you may contact Prevent School Violence Illinois’s website or call at (630) 884-8278.
You can also file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Education. Before filling out the complaint form, it is helpful to read the information on how the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) handles bullying complaints. You may also contact OCR at (800) 421‐3481.