When bullying escalates and becomes a criminal offense

To some bullying may be thought of as a “natural part of childhood” or as simply as “kids just being kids.” Some may also be under the misguided belief that “bullied kids need to learn how to deal with bullying on their own.” These and other misconceptions minimize and excuse the serious nature of bullying while simultaneously contributing to the creation of a hostile environment where bullying can go unnoticed and uncorrected. Moreover, if we willingly relinquish our responsibility and involvement to stop malicious behavior, in effect we allow it to perpetuate and silently communicate that it’s o.k. As a result, the victim may feel he or she has no viable recourse.

It is important to consider the following myths because bullying does not target certain individuals nor is it confined to certain locations.

  • Bullying Doesn’t Happen at My Child’s School.
  • Bullying is Mostly a Problem in Urban Schools.
  • Bullying is More Likely to Happen on the Bus than at School.
  • Children and Youth Who Are Bullied Will Almost Always Tell an Adult.
  • Children and Youth Who Bully are Mostly Loners with Few Social Skills.
  • Words never hurt.
  • Some people deserve to be bullied.
  • Bullying will make kids tougher.
  • Telling a teacher about bullying is tattling.
  • It’s only teasing.
  • Boys will be boys.
  • Girls don’t bully.
  • Children and youth who are bullied will almost always tell an adult.
  • Bullying is easy to recognize.
  • Ignoring bullying will make it go away.

By acknowledging the conditions and inaccurate thinking that contribute to bullying, we can effectively take steps to remove barriers and to reset the standard for what is considered appropriate behavior. Yet, sometimes in spite of our best efforts, there are occasions when bullying escalates and subsequently becomes a criminal offense. Bullying becomes a crime when the offender:

  • Physically assaults someone
  • Harasses someone especially if the harassment is based on gender or race
  • Makes violent threats
  • Makes death threats
  • Makes obscene and harassing phone calls and texts
  • Engages in sexting
  • Engages in sextortion which is sexual exploitation
  • Is involved in child pornography
  • Is stalking someone
  • Commits hate crimes
  • Takes a photo of someone in a place where they expect privacy
  • Is involved in extortion

Please note: Specific legal consequences, policies, and laws regarding the above offenses may vary by state. For more specific information regarding your state’s governance process access the following nationwide map and click on the state of your choice: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html.

The specific laws for the state of Texas can be found at: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/texas.html.

Additional information can be found at the Texas Education agency website: http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Safe_and_Healthy_Schools/Coordinated_School_Health/Coordinated_School_Health_-_Bullying_and_Cyber-bullying/.

CONSIDER

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying or if you are currently being bullied, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you should continue to ask until you get the help you need. By opening up to someone you trust, you avoid the isolation that comes with being unsure, and you create the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals who can ultimately help.

Sources:

Myths about Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources-files/myths-about-bullying-tipsheet.pdf

Common Views and Myths about Bullying: http://www.pacer.org/publications/bullypdf/BP-1.pdf

When Bullying Escalates and Becomes a Criminal Offense: http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/when-bullying-and-cyberbullying-become-crime/

Policies and Laws: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html

Texas Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/texas.html 

Stay tuned for… Who is at Risk?

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