Legislative Efforts to Combat School Bullying

“Bullying cannot be a rite of passage in our nation’s schools. Instead, our schools must be safe and nurturing environments that promote learning and full participation by all students. Bullying, sexual harassment and gender stereotyping of any student, including LGBT students, have no place in our nation’s schools. We must work to stop these abusive behaviors when they take place, repair their harmful effects and prevent them from happening in the future. We will use every tool in our law enforcement arsenal to ensure that all students have access to equal educational opportunities.” ~ Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division

Thirteen years ago, I was a mere high school freshman when the Columbine shootings occurred. This incident plunged the nation into discussion that was long overdue: the problem of school bullying. According to national surveys, “70 percent of middle and high school students have experienced bullying at some point,” with approximately 5 to 15 percent described as “chronic victims.”[1] Unfortunately, less than half actually report such incidents, and the short- and long-term effects on victims can be particularly devastating, such as depression, anxiety, poor health, and decreased academic performance and school participation.

Although bullying was cited as a potential motivator in Columbine and subsequent shooting sprees (such as the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre), as the years passed bullying once more appeared to creep out of the limelight and back into the shadows. However, this issue was hurled back onto the national stage with the hanging suicide of Phoebe Prince in nearby South Hadley, Massachusetts. Prince endured months of insults and taunting from female classmates, both in person and through Facebook, before she took her own life. This prompted communities nationwide to “crack down on bullying,”[2] while lawmakers in Boston “stepp[ed] up efforts to pass a bullying-prevention measure targeting the type of taunting” that Prince was subject to on a routine basis.[3] This resulted in the passage of “An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools.”[4]

Other states naturally followed suit, including Connecticut. Public Act No. 11-232, called “An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws,”[5] became effective July 1, 2011. This Act was later codified and provided a comprehensive scheme concerning anti-bullying school policy requirements, prevention and intervention strategy, and analysis of anti-bullying policies, while behavior that constituted bullying was clearly defined.[6] In addition, the Connecticut State Department of Education has stepped up efforts to disseminate information regarding bullying as well as steps to take to file complaints. At the very least, teachers and administrators are no longer left off the hook for turning a blind eye when approached by student victims of bullying.

Should you have any questions regarding school bullying or any other question relating to education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C.’s Westport office located in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] “Bullying: A Module for Teachers,” by Sandra Graham, PhD, of the American Psychological Association. Accessed September 24, 2012: www.apa.org/education/k12/bullying.aspx

[2] “Teen’s suicide prompts a look at bullying,” by Kathy McCabe. January 24, 2010: www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2010/01/24/teens_suicide_prompts_a_look_at_bullying/

[3] “Bullying legislation gains new urgency,” by James Vaznis. January 26, 2010: www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/01/26/beacon_hill_lawmakers_see_urgent_need_for_antibullying_bill/

[4] “An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools”: www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2010/Chapter92

[5] Public Act. No. 11-232, “An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws”: cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/PA/2011PA-00232-R00SB-01138-PA.htm

[6] Connecticut General Statutes §§ 10-222d, 10-222g, and 10-222h.