Terms and Definitions



Several definitions of bullying exist, but in its true form, bullying is peer abuse.  It’s a specific type of harassment that include three critical elements.

  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Typically involves a pattern of behavior that’s repeated over time
  • An (actual or perceived) imbalance of power or strength

Not all behavior that “substantially interferes” with the school environment rises to this level and constitutes bullying.  According to the Olweus Bullying Prevention program, “Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.”  Many students, parents, teachers, and administrators struggle with distinguishing peer conflict from bullying and other types of peer abuse.

Three Key Components of Bullying Behavior
  1. Involves an aggressive behavior
  2. Typically involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time
  3. Involves an imbalance of power or strength
Direct Bullying
  1. Hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting
  2. Taunting, name-calling, using degrading comments
  3. Threatening or obscene gestures
Indirect Bullying
  1. Getting another person to bully someone
  2. Spreading rumors
  3. Causing another person to be socially isolated
  4. Cyberbullying
Why Address Bullying
  •   For students and their future (mental & physical health)
  •   For a healthy school climate (academic achievement)
  •   For the larger community
  •   Risk management for schools
  •   It’s a wise investment
  •   It’s the law
Effects of Being Bullied
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Depression & anxiety
  • Absenteeism & lowered school achievement
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Illness
Children who bully are more likely to:
  • Get into frequent fights
  • Be injured in a fight
  • Steal, vandalize property
  • Drink alcohol, smoke
  • Be truant, drop out of school
  • Report poorer academic achievement
  • Perceive a negative climate at school
  • Carry a weapon
Bullying bystanders may feel:
  • Afraid
  • Powerless to change the situation
  • Guilty for not acting
  • Diminished empathy for  bullied students over time
Effects of bullying on school climate:
  • Creates a climate of fear and disrespect
  • Interferes with student learning
  • Students may feel insecure and not like school as well
  • Students may perceive a lack of control/caring from adults


Cyberbullying is bullying that is committed through the use of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, cell phones, computers, tablets, and any other communication tools, such as social media, text messages, on-line chats, instant messaging, websites, etc.  Frequent types of cyberbullying would include mean text messages or emails, rumors that are spread, using an electronic device, embarrassing pictures or videos, fake profiles, etc.


Harassment is any unwelcome conduct based on a protected class under the federal civil rights laws that is severe, pervasive or persistent and creates a hostile environment that interferes with or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school.

Harassment meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • An act directed at one or more students that is received as harmful or embarrassing
  • An act directed at one or more students
  • An act that substantially interferes with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of one or more students
  • An act that substantially affects the ability of a student to participate in or benefit from the school district’s educational programs or activities by placing the student in reasonable fear of physical harm or by causing emotional distress
  • An act that is based on a student’s actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic, or is based on an association with another person who has or is perceived to have any distinguishing characteristics
  • An act that is repeated over time – is severe, persistent, and pervasive; causes mental duress, or psychological trauma to the victim.

Civil Rights and Bullying Compliance Form

TN Department of Education – Bullying & Harassment


How to Respond to Bullying Situations


When your child is the victim…

  • Encourage your child to report any problems to you, their school counselor, a teacher, an SRO, their school principal, or any other trusted adult
  • When possible, document incidents that demonstrate the extent of the problem
  • Play an active role in guiding your child through the reporting process, and empower them to take the appropriate steps required to address the issue
  • Notify the school administration immediately if your child is physically threatened
  • Do not try to fix the problem by confronting the bully or the bully’s parents

Tip:  Do not encourage your child to retaliate or “counter-bully” their aggressor.  While this may seem like a rational response, such behavior complicates the investigation for administrators and/or law enforcement.  In many cases, this actually prevents the authorities from determining which student is the victim.

When your child is a bystander…

  • Encourage your child to report the incident to school officials immediately
  • Make sure your child supports the victim by including him/her in social activities

When cyberbullying is the problem…

  • Document any messages or posts
  • Avoid interaction by “blocking” future messages or emails and avoiding problem websites, until the incident can be reported and investigated
  • Report the situation to someone at your child’s school. Generally, the problems extend from home to school, or vice versa

When bullying doesn’t stop…

  • If you’re not satisfied with the school’s response, reach out to the school district office and file a formal grievance
  • If you believe that a crime has occurred, report the incident to a local law enforcement agency

Local Contacts:

Chuck Whitlock, Director of Coordinated School Health

Scott Moore, Wilson Co. Sheriff’s Dept.


Online Resources

The Jason Foundation



Cyberbullying Research Center

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Megan Meier Foundation

Look for the Good Project