Bully Law

Citizens Count Editor

If your child is being bullied, reach out to their school right away. 

Contact the:

  1. Teacher
  2. School counselor
  3. School principal
  4. School superintendent
  5. 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? The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that parents can’t sue schools and school districts for failing to enforce the state’s anti-bullying law. 

Learn more about what schools are required to do about 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. 

Learn more about when bullying constitutes a civil rights violation

New Hampshire bullying statistics

New Hampshire’s most recent bullying statistics cover the 2016-2017 school year. That year, New Hampshire schools reported 179,338 incidents of bullying. 2,233 of those incidents involved cyber bullying. 76 were based on sexual orientation.

See more of New Hampshire’s school bullying statistics

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 would allow parents to switch children out of public schools and into private schools without shouldering all the financial burden.

Learn more about the pros and cons of Education Savings Accounts 

Resources for parents

Read a full rundown of New Hampshire’s laws regarding bullying and cyberbullying

Find resources and advice for dealing with bullying

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“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.

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“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.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Requires school principals to report the following student behavior to the school board: theft, destruction, or violence in a safe school zone, and any case of bullying or pornographic use of social media. These reports must be included in the school board minutes.

In Committee

Requires a superintendent to give a monthly report of substantiated incidents of bullying to the school board.

Killed in the House

Permits individuals to sue schools under the state anti-bullying law.

Killed in the Senate

Reverses the expanded definition of bullying in the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act.

Signed by Governor

Revises the New Hampshire bully law to include a clearer definition of bullying and cyber-bulling.

Was NH right to revise the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act to hold schools responsible for activities online and/or off school grounds?

Comments

Eric Gregg
- Brentwood

Sat, 11/03/2018 - 7:15am

No one likes a bully. No one likes to deal with confrontation. Parents need to be informed and held to task in their child's behavior. If they cannot do this, then the parents need to make other arrangements for their child's education. Why should others suffer or have to deal with a poorly behaved kid?

Silver Newmarket
- Hampton

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 4:32pm

I have never understood bullying and I think the only one who could make an impact is the parents.

Timothy Sweetsir
- Ashland

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 5:11pm

I feel a lot of this starts at home, Children need to learn respect, If they learn this at home it can go a long way, Schools should also be monitored better. Appropriate action taken by the schools as well.
Bullying should not be tolerated in any way shape or form.

Thank you
Tim Sweetsir (R)

Sharon Ponchak
- Hampton

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 2:47pm

This is definately a hard question.  While I don't think it is totally the school's responsibility to catch all the bullying that goes on, I do think that they have the best chance and have the most knowledge of what is going on at a school.  I was a teacher's aide and have done some substitute teaching and I do think teachers and other school officials have much more insight into what is going on and which students are responsible. Bullying is such a terrible and hurtful crime to children, I would think anyone who can help in anyway should help.  Having said all this, I don't know if we can hold school officials completely responsible since there are many times they too are unaware of what is going on.  In general, I think the community has to work together on his issue but if there is evidence that school officials had knowledge and did nothing, I think they should be held accountable.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Log in or register to post comments

Issue Status

In October of last year, Gov. Chris Sununu held a workshop attended by legislators, school officials, parents and child advocates to discuss ways to address bullying in schools. The governor stated that the event was meant to serve as the first step in developing a comprehensive plan for addressing both in-person and online bullying. 

This year there are two bills requiring that instances of bullying be reported to the school board. One of them has been killed.

CONTACT ELECTED OFFICIALS » 

Here in NH, your opinion counts. We make it easy to find and reach out to your elected officials about the issues that matter most to you. Click to search and contact your elected officials!

Join Citizens Count

Join our constantly growing community. Membership is free and supports our efforts to help NH citizens become informed and engaged. 

JOIN TODAY ▸

©2018 Live Free or Die Alliance | The Live Free or Die Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.