Bullying among school-age youth is a pervasive problem that challenges the teaching and learning environment, increases mental health and behavior problems, diminishes school connectedness and violates the right of students to receive equal educational opportunities in a safe environment.1 In response, schools have an ethical and legal responsibility to prevent bullying of any kind, ideally as part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring school safety and promoting positive behavior.1

What is Bullying?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.2 Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social or educational harm.2 The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicated that 19.6 percent of students had experienced some form of bullying on school property during the 12 months before the survey.3

Electronic Aggression

Bullying can occur in-person and through technology. Electronic aggression or cyber-bullying is bullying that happens through email, chat rooms, instant message, a website, text message or social media.4 Nationwide, 14.8 percent of students reported being electronically bullied during the school year.3


Harassment, unlike bullying, does not have to include intent by the perpetrator to harm, be directed at a specific person or involve repeated incidents.5 Harassment is defined as threatening, harmful or humiliating conduct based on race, color, national origin, sex or disability.5 Harassment may result in a hostile environment that interferes or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by a school.5 Schools may also include religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and other actual or perceived characteristics of students who may have increased risk in their harassment and bullying prevention policies.

Bullying Prevention Strategies for Schools

Stopbullying.gov recommends the following strategies for schools to prevent and respond to bullying.

Assess Bullying in Your School
Conduct assessments in your school to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether your prevention efforts are working.
Engage Parents and Youth
It is important for everyone in the community to work together to send a unified message against bullying. Launch an awareness campaign to make the objectives known to the school, parents and community members. Establish a school safety committee or task force to plan, implement and evaluate your school's bullying prevention program.
Create Policies and Rules
Create a mission statement, code of conduct, school-wide rules and a bullying reporting system. These establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. Disseminate and communicate widely.
Build a Safe Environment
Establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, newsletters to families, the school website and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness.
Educate Students and School Staff
Build bullying prevention material into the curriculum and school activities. Train teachers and staff on the school’s rules and policies. Give them the skills to intervene consistently and appropriately.

Additional Bullying Prevention Resources

Additional Resources

Anti-bullying Policies and Enumeration: An Infobrief for Local Education Agencies (PDF, 926KB)
DASH’s New Resource on Anti-Bullying Policies and Enumeration Anti-bullying laws and policies at the state and local levels are important components of bullying prevention. This document focuses on one component some jurisdictions choose to include in their anti-bullying policy – enumeration – because local education agencies may be trying to decide whether or not to enumerate their policies. This resource can help ensure that anti-bullying policies protect all students.

SAMHSA mobile app
KnowBullying, a new mobile app by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides tips for parents about talking with their child about school, work, relationships, life and bullying.

"Bullying, Harassment and Civil Rights" video
A video designed to help schools, parents and others who interact with kids understand the differences between harassment and bullying, and their legal obligations with respect to both. This video was developed in collaboration among the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services.


  1. Rossen, E., & Cowan, K. C. (2012). A framework for school-wide bullying prevention and safety [Brief]. Bethesda, Md.: National Association of School Psychologists
  2. Gladden, R., Vivolo-Kantor, A., Hamburger, M. and Lumpkin, C. (2013). Bullying Surveillance Among Youths: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements, Version 1.0. Atlanta; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Education.
  3. Eaton, D. K., Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S., Flint, K. H., Hawkins, J. et. al. (2014). Youth risk behavior surveillance-United States, 2013. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 2014;63.
  4. David-Ferdon, C. and Hertz, M. (2009). Electronic media and youth violence: A CDC issue brief for researchers. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2009. Retrieved from:  www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/Electronic_Aggression_Researcher_Brief-a.pdf (PDF, 7.60MB)
  5. U.S. Department of Education. (2012). Dear Colleague Letter: Harassment and Bullying. U.S. Department of Education Web site. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.pdf (PDF, 96.93KB)