9 Things You Should Know About Bullying (FAQ)
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
1. What is bullying?
Bullying can take many forms. Under Montana law, bullying means any:
- Insulting, or
- Mean gesture or physical contact that is directed against a student that is severe or repeated.
This includes any planned written, verbal, or electronic communication or threat.
2. Why should we take bullying seriously?
Bullying creates an environment of fear and disrespect that can harm the physical and mental health of victims. Bullying can create conditions that negatively affect learning. This takes away from the ability of students to do their best in school.
3. What does bullying look like?
- Verbal: name-calling, insults, teasing, harassment
- Physical: hitting, punching, shoving, stealing, destroying property
- Social: spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships
- Cyberbullying: using the Internet, cell phones, or social media to harm others
- Sexual: Sexual name calling or gestures, uninvited touching, requests for sexual favors, sexting, or sending pornographic pictures
4. What does The Bully-Free Montana Act do?
The Bully-Free Montana Act protects students from physical harm, property damage, or reasonable fear of either.
The Act protects against bullies who create a hostile environment by getting in the way of a student's access to an education. It prohibits behavior that makes it difficult to run the school.
It protects victims or witnesses who report information about an act of bullying against payback. This includes acts of hazing in sports or school-sponsored clubs or groups.
Under Montana law a bully can be any student or employee of a public K-12 school.
5. Who is protected?
The Bully-Free Montana Act protects students enrolled in a public K-12 school.
6. What are schools required to do?
Every school district is required to have policies and ways for dealing with the issues of bullying and cyber-bullying. Ask to see your district’s policy and learn how your school is putting the policy to use. The law requires that a victim try to solve the problem through these policies before filing a lawsuit against the school.
If you are an educator or school administrator and want to know more about policies for bullying prevention, the Office of Public Instruction has many resources available for schools to address bullying.
7. When is sexual bullying sexual assault?
Sexual assault includes rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person's body in a sexual way without that person's consent.
Victims of sexual violence or sex based discrimination are guaranteed specific rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. You can see for yourself a list of these Title IX rights. Find out more about Title IX.
You can help a survivor of sexual assault by providing information about options and resources.
It may be helpful to connect the victim, or their parent or guardian, with the following resources:
- Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. The Sexual Assault Legal Services (SALS) project serves survivors ages 11 and up. For more information and to apply, go to http://mcadsv.com/what-we-do/sexual-assault-legal-services-program/. You can also call (406) 443-7794.
- Local law enforcement
- Local health care providers
- School Administrators if the incident is school-related
- A Victim Advocate in your area.
8. What legal options do victims of violence or harassment in schools have?
An Order of Protection is a court order designed to stop violent and harassing behavior, and to protect you from someone who has harmed or threatened you and is causing you fear. Learn more about Orders of Protection.
Access to Education
Students have a right to education. No child may be denied schooling in the state where they reside. Schools are required to address anything that gets in the way of that right. That includes discrimination, bullying, and crime. You can see for yourself the Administrative Rules.
Bullying and violence can cause both physical and mental damage. A victim may be able to file a civil lawsuit against a bully to pay for those damages. That may include medical, financial, and legal bills and/or emotional damages.
Restitution is the offender’s debt to you, the victim, for losses resulting from the crime. A judge can order this as part of the offender’s sentence in a criminal case. Learn more at https://dojmt.gov/victims/restitution/.
Crime Victim Compensation (CVC)
Montana’s CVC program strives to reduce some of the financial burdens related to a crime. CVC can help with medical expenses, including counseling. https://dojmt.gov/victims/crime-victim-compensation/
9. There’s an app for that.
Research shows that parents and caregivers who spend at least 15 minutes a day talking with their children or teens help build strong relationships, and prevent bullying. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) free KnowBullying app will help you boost your children’s confidence, resilience, and build effective strategies for facing bullying.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2014-XV-BX-K011 and No. 16-V01-91927 awarded by the Montana Board of Crime Control (MBCC) through the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.
Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) coordinates the Victim Legal Assistance Network (VLAN). VLAN provides free legal and holistic services to crime victims in Montana. Apply for free help for crime victims.
- Apply for Crime Victim Compensation (CVC)
- Download write-in-the-blank forms for an Order of Protection
- Use an online interactive form for an Order of Protection
Get the App
Learn about the KnowBullying app
- Learn more about if you or someone you know might qualify for Restitution
- Learn more about how an Order of Protection can help protect you or your child
- Access resources for parents
- Learn about the Title IX protections related to sexual bullying and sexual assault