Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies

Degree Program

Interdisciplinary Studies (Individualized Degree), PhD

Committee Chair

Foster, J. Price

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Simpson, David

Committee Member

Duncan, Susan

Committee Member

Belak, Anthony

Author's Keywords

bullying,harassment; restorative practices; civility; school reporting


This qualitative exploratory study examines the current state of school anti-bullying legislation in the United States by reviewing the 50 state statutes and builds on the work of Sameer Hinduja, and Justin W. Patchin, (2015) and Sacco, D, Silbaugh, K, Corredor, F, Casey, J, Doherty, D. (2013). Their work on comparing state bullying statutes did not address restorative justice/practices, protections for special populations, safe-reporting systems, or stakeholder knowledge. This study addresses these four areas that were not addressed and they are the focus. In addition, this exploratory study addresses the following questions:

  • What are the theories that explain youth bullying?
  • How effective is current state legislation in preventing and correcting bullying behavior at the local level; are there specific problems with current legislation?
  • What might be done to improve the current legislation at the local, state and national level?
  • Is there a new strategy that incorporates a three-part system of knowledge, safe reporting, and restorative practice that could be included in state statutes to help local schools deal with bullying for all school populations?

A bullying environment has been linked to virtually every one of the horrific school shootings in the United States, (Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum, Modzeleski, 2002). A strong relationship connects youth bullying behavior with subsequent crime. Students identified as bullies by the age of eight are six times more likely to become involved in criminal behavior (Olweus, 1993; National School Safety Center, 1999). Bullying has been shown to be one of the three fast tracks for juveniles that evolve into adult criminals (Loeber, 1990). Targets of bullying have been shown to have long-term negative health consequences (Olweus 1984; Boston Children’s Hospital, Healthy Passages 2014). Experience shows that school officials are often hesitant to develop comp ensive anti-bullying strategies until either a school tragedy occurs or state statutes require schools to adopt anti-bullying plans and policies. This study presents Restorative Justice and Safe-Reporting Systems as tools for correcting school bullying and suggests ‘model legislative language’ to assist states in determining what statute amendments might impact bullying at the local school level in their states. Additionally, this study presents the need for: (1) effective programs for intervening with bullies at the individual and relationship level; (2) structural strategies that interrupt bullying incidents; (3) social norm change that reduces the appeal of bullying; (4) reporting systems that can track bullying perceptions and incidents, and thereby support a climate change at each of the aforementioned levels; (5) restorative justice and restorative practice strategies and programs to deal with the harm done to all the participants, offenders, targets, and bystanders. If a program is to become effective in changing bullying behavior, all three groups involved, the targets, the offenders, and the bystanders, must be included and become part of the restorative resolution (Braithwaite, 1996; IIRP 2009).