Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying and Cyberbullying in Oklahoma

On April 20, 1999, Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold walked into Columbine High School armed with guns and explosives, killing 12 students and one teacher before taking their own lives. The motive behind their murderous and suicidal rampage indicated revenge for apparent mistreatment by other students. Since then, the link between bullying and school violence has been evaluated extensively.

With the growth of social media, bullying has gained an even larger audience, and numerous children and teens have been driven to suicide over bullying and cyberbullying.

StopBullying.gov defines bullying as intentionally aggressive and repeated harassment highlighting "power differences." Bullying is generally perpetrated by an individual or a group against another individual or group in an effort to reduce the victims' power or standing. The organization describes multiple types of bullying, including physical, social, or verbal bullying and cyberbullying, which can be both verbal and social.

Certain individuals and groups are at greater risk of being bullied:

  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) youth
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Socially isolated youth
  • Those who are perceived as weak or unable to fight back
  • Those who are perceived to be "different" through weight, clothing, style, socio-economic status, or being new to a school
  • Those who suffer depression or low self-esteem

Because individuals are often targeted for bullying, harassment, and intimidation on the basis of their differences, acts of bullying involving race, disability, or other specified criteria may be prosecuted as hate crimes in Oklahoma.

Likewise, certain individuals and groups are often predisposed to becoming bullies:

  • Those who are aggressive or easily frustrated
  • Those who view violence as a positive means of control or example of strength
  • Those with little parental involvement
  • Those who feel superior to others or who tend to think poorly of their peers
  • Those who struggle with rules and who feel above consequences
  • Those with friends who also bully others

Because "bullying" has become such a hot topic because of the violence and disenfranchisement it creates, many people have used it as a buzzword, calling any negative experience of youth "bullying." Using the term loosely tends to negate the seriousness of bullying, which can have deadly consequences if not kept in check.

Bullying and the Law

In Oklahoma, there is no specific bullying statute. While bullying itself is not against the law, many of the actions which comprise bullying or cyberbullying are misdemeanor or felony offenses. Those who use threats, violence, or harassment to intimidate or harm another person may be criminally charged as a result of bullying.

  • Assault - misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail
  • Assault and Battery - misdemeanor punishable by 90 days in jail
  • Aggravated Assault and Battery - felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison
  • Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon - felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison
  • Assault with Intent to Commit a Felony - felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison
  • Robbery - punishable by a maximum of life in prison, depending on whether the crime is first degree robbery, second degree robbery, conjoint robbery, or armed robbery
  • Sexual battery - felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison
  • Hate Crimes/Malicious Harassment Based on Race, Color, Religion, Ancestry, National Origin, Disability - misdemeanor on the first offense; felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison on subsequent offenses
  • Kidnapping - felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison
  • Stalking - misdemeanor on the first offense; felony punishable by a maximum of 5 or 10 years on subsequent offenses

The above offenses generally pertain to person-to-person bullying, but certain acts of cyberbullying are also against Oklahoma law.

  • Violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act
  • Child pornography (particularly in sexting cases)
  • Obscenity, Threats, or Harassment by Telephone or Other Electronic Communication

Oklahoma's stalking laws define harassment as "a pattern or course of conduct directed toward another individual that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress, and that actually causes emotional distress to the victim. Harassment shall include harassing or obscene phone calls."

Emotional distress is considered to be "significant mental suffering" that may be severe enough to warrant medical attention or psychological counseling, although such treatment is not necessary to demonstrate emotional distress.

Cyberbullying is social and verbal harassment carried out online and through social networks. It may include threatening emails or instant messages, threats or rumors perpetrated over social networks, or the posting of embarrassing photographs or stories over the internet.

Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

Currently, there are no laws prohibiting bullying per se, but there are multiple laws under which acts of bullying and cyberbullying may be criminally prosecuted. While bullying is often a crime among children and teens, even adults may be bullies. If you or your child is accused of a hate crime, assault, or criminal harassment as a result of bullying or cyberbullying, call the Law Firm of Oklahoma to see how we can help you keep this incident from becoming a defining feature of your life.

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