Is Bullying Harassment?

Many individuals, including parents and school officials may use the terms “bullying” and “harassment” interchangeably. However, bullying is not the same as harassment. While there are many similarities between the two, there are important differences. Below, our attorneys discuss “Is bullying harassment?” and explain the distinctions.

Is Bullying the Same as Harassment?

Bullying and harassment have many factors in common but are not inherently the same. According to PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, both bullying and harassment behavior often include:
  • Actions intended to harass, threaten or harm another student
  • An imbalance of power between the individual performing the behavior and the target
  • Power and control over the target
  • Actions that are difficult for the victim to stop

What Is the Difference Between Bullying and Harassment?

When bullying behavior becomes based on a victim’s protected class, then it is no longer bullying – it is discriminatory harassment. In the United States, protected classes include:
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Disability
  • National origin
For example, if a bully uses direct bullying to taunt a victim about his or her size, then that behavior is considered bullying. If a bully taunts a victim about his or her size due to the victim’s disability, then it is discriminatory harassment.

Protection by Law

There is not a federal law against bullying. This means that victims of bullying must turn to state and local laws and regulations as well as school bullying policies for protections. However, victims of discriminatory harassment are protected under federal civil rights laws. These laws are enforced by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education. Victims of discriminatory harassment may be protected by the following laws:
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Education Amendments of 1972
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Discuss Your Unique Situation With Our Attorneys

If your child has suffered serious physical or mental injuries, or has taken his or her own life after being bullied at school or online, speak to our lawyers. You may have legal options to hold the responsible parties accountable. Call Grant & Eisenhofer P.A. at (855) 244-2031 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.