Are there federal laws that apply to bullying?

Even though there is no particular federal law that explicitly condemns bullying, keep heart. There are plenty of bullying instances that do come under the harassment laws! If the bullying is a type of harassment that is related to race, sex, age, religion or even disability, then bullying does overlap the laws related to harassment. These laws fall under federal civil rights.

In such cases, schools and universities that fall under federal funding are obliged to resolve conflicts arising from such harassment cases. Anyone has the right to report the incidents to the school and the school is required to take appropriate and immediate action to resolve the conflict.

If the situation is so strained that it cannot be resolved at that level, both the Department of Education (ED) and the Justice Department’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division can intervene.

Bullying or hazing is subject to the Federal Law if it is:

  • Severe and/or consistent
  • Makes the environment at school hostile, so much so that the child is unable to cope with studies, services, or other school activities.
  • If the bullying or the harassment is about race, religion, age, sex, or disability.

No matter the severity or the type of harassment, bullying must not be tolerated. Schools and educators have an obligation to intervene and resolve all issues related to bullying. Students with disabilities must be protected too.

When students are bullied because of their sexual orientation, it falls under the sex discrimination Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Students who are inclined towards LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered) or are LGBT are also targets for bullying, and are protected under the law.


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