For school age children, each state addresses bullying differently. Some cover bullying, cyber bullying and related behaviors in one law, some in multiple laws. But what state laws have in common is that they all declare that any form, type, or level of school bullying is unacceptable, and that every incident needs to be taken seriously by school administrators, school staff, teachers, students, and students’ families. All states acknowledge that bullying has a huge and detrimental impact on student learning, school safety, student engagement, and the school environment.

But we know adults bully and get bullied, too. According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, sixty percent of people who bully as children grow up to be bullying adults. That means that a great many adults have a relationship with a boss or a co-worker that can only be described as abusive. 

In the adult world, bullying rarely constitutes a crime (although there have been cases brought to court and won) but it can be civil matter in which the person and/or organization can be named in a lawsuit. Generally, domestic restraining orders are for family members or someone a person has dated. However, several states now have civil restraining orders (or HPOs, harassment protection orders) where you are protected, for example, from a boss, co-worker or neighbor.

Right now, no federal law directly addresses bullying. However, in terms of your children, know that schools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination and, for adult cases, harassment against protected classes may move the bullying to a federal concern as well. 

What dimensions of diversity are protected by law and what do organizations need to do to meet the requirement of “responding appropriately?”

* I am always glad to work with schools, nonprofits and companies who are facing civil lawsuits for bullying. Sadly, it’s a big part of my consulting business. However, how much better to prevent harassment! If you know someone who is part of an organization that wants to focus on prevention, would you send this article to them or tell them about O’Halloran Diversity Productions? They can reach me at: and we will set up a short conversation to see if I can be of help to them. Thanks in advance!


Sue O’Halloran is a diversity consultant working for more inclusive schools, businesses and faith-based organizations. High school teachers, Sue will be offering a free webinar in 20183 Common Mistakes High School Teachers Make that Have Them Unintentionally Offending Students & Parents of Different Races. Watch for announcements!