If your child is being bullied, reach out to their school right away.
- School counselor
- School principal
- School superintendent
- State Department of Education
If a crime has occurred or someone is in immediate danger, call 911.
If you believe the school is not properly addressing bullying based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion, you may also want to contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights or the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
What are NH schools required to do about bullying?
Parents often wonder what schools are legally obligated to do about bullying. Here are a few of the things New Hampshire requires of schools:
- Have a written policy against bullying and cyber bullying
- Have written protections for people who “blow the whistle” on bullies
- Develop procedures for reporting instances of bullying or cyberbullying
- Notify parents within 48 hours of an incident report involving their child
- Initiate an investigation of reported bullying within 5 school days of the incident
- Principals must report substantiated incidents to the superintendent
- Schools must also report their findings to the parents of both the bully and their victim
Wondering what happens if a school doesn’t meet those requirements? In 2015 the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that parents can’t sue schools and school districts under the state’s anti-bullying law. However, in 2021 the New Hampshire Legislature passed HB 140, which creates the right to sue a school district or charter school for violating the state law regulating how schools address bullying.
How does NH define bullying?
New Hampshire state law defines bullying as a significant incident or incidents where a bully:
- Hurts a student or damages their property;
- Causes a student emotional distress
- Interferes with a student’s ability to learn;
- Creates a hostile educational environment; or
- Substantially disrupts school.
Not all bullying is physical. New Hampshire law specifically includes both physical acts of bullying as well as written notes, spoken words, electronic communication, etc.
School bullying in and of itself isn’t a crime in New Hampshire, although other states have moved to make it a misdemeanor offense. A bully will only face criminal charges if their actions break other laws, like assault or theft.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying occurs when cell phones, computers, or other electronics are used to bully someone. The same rules against bullying apply to cyber bullying.
Often, this kind of abuse happens off campus after school. New Hampshire’s laws against bullying apply to behavior that happens off school property, provided that the conduct impacts the victim’s ability to learn or substantially disrupts school.
Bullying and civil rights
Bullies often pick on students who have differing characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs. New Hampshire includes hurtful actions motivated by this sort of intolerance in its legal definition of “bullying.” This can include differences in sexual orientation, gender identity, and a range of other distinguishing personal characteristics from race and national origin to socioeconomic status and obesity.
In some cases, this sort of bullying may constitute a civil rights violation. New Hampshire schools that receive federal funding are required to adhere to federal discrimination laws or risk losing funding.
Federal law also protects children with disabilities – which can include attention and learning issues - under the Americans with Disabilities Act and related laws.
New Hampshire law reinforces Title IX but also extends protections to LGBTQ students.
Should the state do more to stop bullying?
New Hampshire state law requires local school districts to design their own anti-bullying policies. Some believe the state should do more to prevent bullying in schools. This could include mandating that all schools adopt specific anti-bullying policies. Others feel that Education Savings Accounts (ESA) are the answer. These allow parents to switch children out of public schools and into private schools without shouldering all the financial burden.
Resources for parents
“The state of New Hampshire should do more to address bullying.”
Bullying can do serious psychological damage to young victims, with consequences affecting them for years or even a lifetime in some cases. New Hampshire should therefore do all that it can to enforce strict, statewide antibullying measures.
Other states have had success with statewide anti-bullying policies. New Jersey’s “Anti-bullying Bill of Rights,” for example, is known as the strictest statewide anti-bullying law in the country. It requires all schools in the state receive a safety score and that grade is posted on each school’s website. It also requires teachers attend special training sessions to learn how to deal with bullying. New Hampshire leaves much of the policy making around bullying up to individual school districts. This patchwork of policies makes it harder for parents to know how their school will deal with bullying. An Anti-bullying Bill of Rights would empower parents to hold schools accountable.
New Hampshire should consider making the worst bullying offenses a misdemeanor offense. This would send a powerful message to school bullies that abusing classmates isn’t just against the rules – it would also be a crime. Such a law would make all students feel safe going to school. Right now, there are few consequences for bullies unless schools punish them.
“The state of New Hampshire should continue to empower local school districts to address bullying.”
- New Hampshire has a tradition of local control in this area. School officials, teachers, and parents know more about their own communities than state legislators do. Those closest to the daily operation of a school should be in charge of setting policies regarding bullying.
- While strong, state level anti-bullying laws make a powerful statement, they can also put a heavy financial burden on schools. Such laws often include strict reporting deadlines and the threat of disciplinary action against school officials who don’t complete reports fast enough. They may also include mandatory teacher training. Without providing more funding along with the new requirements, these laws can make it even harder for cash-strapped schools to function.
- Compared with other states, New Hampshire has relatively low bullying rates in its schools. Allowing school districts to design their own policies and procedures helps communities learn from each other about what approaches work best.
- While it is important for schools to address bullying swiftly, bullying itself should not be a crime. Making certain bullying offenses a misdemeanor would put a black mark on the young bully’s record and could make it harder for them to reform their behavior as they mature.