Bullying & Harassment

While every child must learn how to interact with others and deal with difficult situations they do not have to tolerate being bullied or harassed. Addressing bullying is important to all students involved. Students avoiding school because of bullying will suffer academically as well as socially.

Every student deserves to be treated with respect and have a safe and civil learning environment. Furthermore, Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-4503 requires that every school district have a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment as well as procedures for investigating reports of bullying and harassment.

For more information, please visit our civil rights page on bullying.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

TBI School Violence Hotline

How to Respond to Bullying Situations

When your child is the victim...

  • encourage your child to report any problems
  • keep documentation of instances -- this will help you communicate the extent of the problem to school officials, etc.
  • talk with the teacher, counselor, or principal about the problem
  • do not try to fix the problem by confronting the bully or the bully’s parents
  • guide your child through the process of addressing the problem, alongside them, empowering them to take appropriate steps to address the issue
  • notify the school administration immediately if your child is physically threatened

When your child is the bully...

  • be a positive role model
  • reinforce positive and kind behavior
  • teach your child how to be respectful and show anger appropriately
  • seek professional assistance, if necessary

When your child is a bystander...

  • encourage your child to report the incident immediately to school officials
  • have your child support the victim by including him or her in social activities

When cyberbullying is the problem...

  • document messages or posts
  • avoid interaction online – block future messages or emails, avoid any problem websites
  • discuss the situation with your child’s school. Problems may extend from school to home, or home to school.

When bullying doesn’t stop

When you are not satisfied with the response from the school…

  • contact the school district office and take the appropriate steps to file a grievance

When the issue goes beyond bullying and appears to be harassment...

Additional Resources

  • The Unsafe School Policy provides any student who attends a persistently dangerous school, or any student who has been the victim of a violent crime while at school, the opportunity to attend a safe school.
  • Stop Bullying Now! provides information on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.

What schools can do to prevent or address bullying and harassment:

  • Build a positive school climate/culture
  • Develop and communicate clear expectations for students and faculty– classroom rules, school policies and consequences
  • Model respectful behavior
  • Conduct student and staff surveys to determine areas of need



Key Terms

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. The imbalance of power involves the use of physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm others.

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: is an act directed at one or more students that is received as harmful or embarrassing; is directed at one or more students; substantially interferes with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of one or more students; 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; 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; is repeated over time – is severe, persistent, and pervasive; causes mental duress, or psychological trauma to the victim.

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets, as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Examples may include mean text messages or emails, rumor sent by email or posted on social network sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.