What Constitutes School Bullying?

About 20 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 18 experience bullying during the school year. Victims can suffer serious adverse effects of bullying, which may include severe emotional and physical injuries or even death. Below, our attorneys explain what school bullying is and what constitutes bullying in school.

What Is School Bullying?

The definition of school bullying differs from state to state. However, it generally includes physical, verbal or psychological actions by a student to harass, threaten, or harm another student. StopBullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” In order for the behavior to be classified as bullying, it must include:
  • Aggression. The bully must intend to hurt the victim with his or her behavior.
  • Repetition. The unwanted and aggressive behavior is not a one-time event, but rather is repeated or has the potential to be repeated.
  • Imbalance of power. The bully must have real or perceived power over his or her victim. For example, this power imbalance could come from perceived physical strength or social popularity.

What Are the Types of Bullying in School?

Bullying can occur in many forms. Types of bullying in school may include:
  • Physical bullying
  • Verbal bullying
  • Social bullying, or relational aggression

What Is Physical Bullying?

Physical bullying includes physical acts directed against the victim. Physical bullying may include, but is not limited to:
  • Pushing
  • Slapping
  • Punching
  • Tripping
  • Hair pulling
  • Restraining another student
It can also include indirect actions that are designed to intimidate or embarrass the victim. These actions may include:
  • Stealing possessions (i.e. lunch money)
  • Destroying possessions (i.e. books)
  • Throwing objects at the victim

Sexual Bullying

Physical bullying can also turn into sexual harassment or sexual assault. Examples of sexual harassment or assault may include:
  • Touching, grabbing, or pinching someone in a deliberately sexual way
  • Pulling at someone’s clothes
  • Brushing against someone on purpose in a sexual way
  • Sexual assault
  • Attempted rape
  • Rape

What Is Verbal Bullying?

Verbal bullying is the use of written or spoken language to hurt another student. It may include, but is not limited to:
  • Teasing
  • Taunting
  • Mocking or mimicking
  • Threatening
  • Name-calling
Verbal bullying can also turn into harassment if the bully makes comments about a person’s protected traits, such as:
  • Sexual identity
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion

What Is Social Bullying?

Social bullying, also known as relational aggression, involves acts to hurt the victim’s reputation and/or relationships. It is typically designed to make the targeted victim feel isolated from his or her peers. Examples of social bullying include:
  • Spreading rumors about the victim
  • Leaving the victim out on purpose
  • Telling other peers to not be friends with the victim


Cyberbullying is another form of social bullying that takes place through the use of technology. This type of bullying does not only take place on school property. It can occur online through computers and cell phones. Cyberbullying may include, but is not limited to:
  • Threats sent through social media platforms, text messages and email
  • Spreading harmful photographs, videos or rumors online

Contact Our Lawyers

Contact an attorney if your child has sustained mental or physical injuries, or has taken his or her own life as a result of being bullied. Grant & Eisenhofer can help you understand your legal options based on the unique circumstances of your situation. You may have a viable lawsuit to hold the school board, school district, or parents of the bully accountable. Call us at (855) 244-2031 to schedule a free consultation.