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State and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children. Each jurisdiction—including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories (state)—addresses bullying differently. Some have established laws, policies, and regulations. Others have developed model policies schools and local educational agencies (districts) can use as they develop their own local laws, policies, and regulations.

Most state laws, policies, and regulations require districts and schools to implement a bullying policy and procedures to investigate and respond to bullying when it occurs. A handful of states also require bullying prevention programs, inclusion of bullying prevention in health education standards, and teacher professional development. These state laws generally do not prescribe specific consequences for kids who engage in bullying behavior, and very few classify bullying as a criminal offense. Further, states may address bullying, cyberbullying, and related behaviors in a single law (statute) or in multiple laws (education code, criminal code). In some states, bullying laws are included in the sections of the criminal code that apply to juveniles.

Although no federal law directly addresses bullying, in some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment when it is based on race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion. When bullying and harassment overlap, federally-funded schools (including colleges and universities) have an obligation to resolve the harassment. When the situation is not adequately resolved, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division may be able to help.

In Texas, bullying is addressed through state laws and local school district policies. Texas law requires school districts to adopt and implement a bullying prevention policy and to take measures to investigate and respond to incidents of bullying. The Texas Education Code (TEC) specifically defines bullying and mandates that school districts have policies in place to address it. These policies must include provisions for the prevention of bullying, procedures for reporting and investigating bullying, and actions to be taken when bullying is confirmed. Texas does not classify bullying as a criminal offense for juveniles, but schools are required to take action against it. Additionally, while Texas law focuses on prevention and response at the school district level, federal law may come into play if bullying constitutes discriminatory harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, sex, or disability. In such cases, schools receiving federal funding are obligated to address the harassment, and federal agencies can intervene if the issue is not adequately resolved.

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