Actual bullying, many educators and social scientists say, is intentional, repetitive abuse by a powerful person toward a less powerful target.
But not everyone defines it the same way: Although most states have bullying laws on the books, according to the Education Commission of the States, it’s handled differently around the country. New Hampshire’s law specifies that an act need occur only once — not multiple times — to be bullying. Nebraska’s law calls on local districts to create bullying policies. Several states recently added provisions to cover cyberbullying — bullying or harassment through technology. Laws in Massachusetts and New Jersey detail how educators should prevent, report and investigate bullying.
Say the word in almost any school these days, and it will get a quick reaction. In many cases, advocates said, that’s helpful. But sometimes, when it’s not really bullying, kids miss out on a chance to learn to cope with minor conflicts on their own.