Bullying laws are any state or federal laws that protect victims from bullying, or that give a victim recourse if he or she has been subject to bullying. In the United States, most states have created laws that give victims protection and recourse, though a few states do not have such laws. The US federal government has not passed legislation regarding bullying laws. The laws can vary from state to state or from country to country, but most legislation allows for protection against bullying and recourse in a court of law should someone be subject to bullying; some states and countries go a step further and mandate education about bullying to help prevent it.
Most bullying laws focus on school bullying, though other types of bullying may also be covered. Schools are often cited as directly responsible for the prevention of bullying, and non-compliance with the law can lead to fines or other legal action. The schools must obey bullying laws by ensuring victims can report harassment or violence confidentially, and they must do a full investigation into the bullying claim to ensure that the claim is true. All matters regarding the bullying claim must be carefully documented. The bully must then be disciplined accordingly; this may mean a suspension from school, expulsion, or in more severe cases, arrest and pressing charges.
In some areas, bullying laws may include stipulations that the school must keep a record of the verified number of incidences of bullying throughout the school year, and the schools must make that information available to the public. In addition to such a stipulation, some states require that schools implement anti-bullying programs that require the school to reduce the number of incidences of bullying each year to mark progress. The anti-bullying programs often include both student education on bullying and teacher training regarding what to do if a teacher witnesses bullying occurring in the classroom.
The advent of cyber bullying has complicated bullying laws as well as a school's ability to recognize when bullying is occurring. Cyber bulling occurs when a student harasses or threatens another student via text message, e-mail, cell phone, or other means of virtual communication. The practice known as "sexting," in which a student distributes nude or lewd photographs of another student via picture text message or e-mail, has become a widespread problem throughout many countries, and it is up for debate whether most bullying laws cover such actions.