Students & Schools : Bullying in Schools

Does Ohio have a law prohibiting bullying in schools?

Yes.  Ohio's law is found in the Ohio Revised Code, section 3313.666.  The law prohibits harassment, intimidation, or bullying in schools.  It went into effect on March 30, 2007 and was amended effective November 4, 2012.

Who does this law apply to?

The law applies to every public school district in Ohio.  It does not apply to private schools.  Under the law, all public schools must prohibit bullying.

Does the law define "bullying"?

Yes.  The law defines "harassment, intimidation, or bullying" as any intentional written, verbal, electronic, or physical act that a student has exhibited toward another particular student more than once and the behavior both:

  • causes mental or physical harm, and
  • is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for the other student.

This means that bullying includes both physically beating up or attacking your child, OR verbally abusing your child with threats, taunts, etc.  Your child does not have to be physically harmed to be a victim of bullying.

The law also includes any violence within a dating relationship as an incident of bullying.

Does the law address cyberbullying?

Yes. The law prohibits bullying by an electronic act (or "cyberbullying"), and defines "electronic act" as an act committed through the use of a cell phone, computer, pager, personal communication device, or other electronic communication device. Cyberbullying does not have to happen at school to be bullying that is prohibited by the law.

What does the law require schools to do?

The law requires all school districts to establish a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying.  The policy must be developed in consultation with parents, students, school employees, and community members.  The policy must include the following:

  • a statement prohibiting bullying of any student on school property, on a school bus, or at school-sponsored events and expressly providing for the possibility of suspension of a student found responsible for cyberbullying;
  • a definition of bullying that includes the definition listed above (in other words, schools cannot decide to define bullying to only include physically hurting another student - they must include physical and mental harm);
  • a procedure for reporting bullying;
  • a requirement that school employees and volunteers must report bullying to the school principal;
  • a requirement that the custodial parent or guardian of students who are involved in any bullying be notified and have access to any written reports about bullying incidents;
  • a procedure for documenting, or keeping track, of any reported bullying;
  • a procedure for responding to and investigating any reported bullying;
  • a strategy for protecting a victim or other person from new or additional bullying, AND from retaliation for reporting bullying, including a means by which a person may report an incident anonymously;
  • a disciplinary procedure for a student guilty of bullying another student;
  • a statement prohibiting students from making false reports of bullying on purpose, and a disciplinary procedure for any student responsible for making a false report.

The law requires school districts to publish their bullying policy in the student handbook every year and to include the policy in school employee training materials. Also, the policy and an explanation of the seriousness of cyberbullying must be made available to students and to their custodial parents or guardians.

If a school district receives government funding for anti-bullying education, the district must provide all of its students with age-appropriate instruction about its anti-bullying policy, including a written or verbal discussion of the consequences for violating the policy. As a parent, you can ask an official at your child's school if the school is required to provide this education, and if not, why not.

Are school districts required to notify the public about reported bullying incidents?

Yes. School districts are required by the law to post a summary of all reported bullying incidents on their district websites at least twice a year. 

What actions can parents take to prevent bullying?

  • Talk to your child and be aware of his experiences at school.  Also, it is important to communicate regularly with your child's teachers and the school staff.
  • Be aware of how your child interacts with friends and how she deals with pressures related to popularity and social power in school.
  • As your child gets older and becomes more independent, try to remain active in her life through open communication and positive, respectful behavior.
  • Serve as a positive role model by refraining from put-downs and offensive language and try to stress the importance of respect for others in your daily behavior and activities.

What can parents do if they find out about bullying?

  • If you find out your child has been bullying other students, don't ignore the problem.  Ask the school, your child's pediatrician, or other trusted sources for help in stopping your child's behavior.
  • If you find out your child has been the victim of bullying, report the incident immediately to your child's school.  Read the school's bullying policy, and make sure the school follows it.  Keep records of your communications with the school.  If you write a letter or an email, date it and keep a copy for your records.  If you call or speak to a school administrator in person, write down the date, time, and a summary of your conversation.  Ask the school to follow up with you and inform you of what it does to address the problem.  If the problem continues, let the school know.

What if my child is facing some type of abuse or harassment at school, but I am not sure if it meets the definition of bullying?

You can and should report any incident of abuse or harassment.  Keep your child's teacher and the school principal informed of what you hear and ask them to let you know immediately of any further incidents. 

What do schools have to do if they receive a report of bullying?

Schools must follow their bullying policy, as required by the law.  The law says they must, at a minimum:

  • document and investigate the incident, and
  • develop a strategy to protect the child or other person from new or additional bullying or retaliation.

It is important to remember that, whether or not the school disciplines another student for the bullying, it still must make sure the victimized student and others are protected from future bullying and especially from retaliation related to reporting the incident.

What should I do if the school doesn't believe that bullying is taking place or if my child continues to be bullied after the initial report?

If the school denies that bullying is taking place, but your child continues to experience bullying, you should contact the superintendent for your school district and explain the situation.  Ask the superintendent to speak with the school principal at your child's school.  If that doesn't work, you can contact your local legal aid office or another attorney to find out if the school's refusal to recognize the bullying violates the Ohio law prohibiting bullying.

If your child continues to experience bullying despite the school's attempts to protect her, you should continue to report future incidents to the school.  Continued and repeated bullying incidents let the school know that its current strategy for addressing the bullying is not working.  You may need to demand that the school try other strategies or ask the school to consult with an expert to determine how to address bullying better.  If the school continues to fail to protect your child, consult with an attorney.

Are there any federal protections against harassment or discrimination in schools?

Yes.  Federal (U.S.) law says that school may not be deliberately indifferent to harassment or discrimination against students in school based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.  If you think this is happening in your child's school, you should consult an attorney.

For more help or to get specific answers to your questions about bullying in schools:

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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