Should Bullies Be Subject to Criminal Prosecution?
Bullying has become a serious issue across the nation, as studies show its detrimental emotional, social and academic effects. While 46 states require schools to implement anti-bullying programs, some states are considering taking it a step further and treating bullying as a crime.
Existing laws in Arkansas
The Arkansas Anti-Bullying Act, passed in 2003, requires all school districts to educate students about bullying and institute systems for reporting and addressing bullying incidents. The law was amended in recent years to address social media and cyber-bullying.
The state criminal code, however, does not directly outlaw bullying. Extreme incidents of bullying are subject to prosecution under current criminal statutes dealing with harassment, assault and battery. But some parents believe that the existing laws do not take bullying seriously enough in light of the fact that some bullied children have been driven to the point of suicide.
Making bullying a criminal offense
There are no pending bills that would make bullying a crime in Arkansas. But state Sen. David Johnson of Little Rock, who introduced anti-bullying amendments in 2012, points out that, in addition to the existing criminal sanctions for harassment, assault and battery, there’s another legal deterrent to bullying: civil suits against the bully and the school district that allowed the bullying to happen.