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Definitions of Bullying

We will look at two components to the definition of bullying. First, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program defines a person as bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.  This definition includes three important parts. It suggests that bullying: 

  • is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions
  • involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time
  • involves an imbalance of power or strength

The second definition is according to Iowa Code 280.28 that describes bullying and harassment as follows:

  • Any electronic, written, verbal, or physical act or conduct
  • Based on any actual or perceived trait or characteristic
  • That creates an objectively hostile school environment.

The law applies to bullying and harassment by any student, staff, or volunteer within the school setting or involved in a school-sponsored event.  When investigating allegation of bullying & harassment the criteria above will be the guiding criteria in the determination of the findings of the district.


Harassment, bullying, and abuse are violations of school district policies, rules, and regulations and, in some cases, may be a violation of criminal or other laws.  The school district has the authority to report students violating this rule to law enforcement officials.

Students who feel that they have been harassed or bullied should:

  1. Communicate to the harasser or bully that the student expects the behavior to stop, if the student is comfortable doing so.  If the student needs assistance communicating with the harasser or bully, the student should ask a teacher, counselor or principal to help.
  2. If the harassment or bullying does not stop, or the student does not feel comfortable confronting the harasser or bully, the student should:

ü  Tell a teacher, counselor or principal; and

ü  Write down exactly what happened, keep a copy and give another copy to the teacher, counselor or principal including;

  • What, when and where it happened;
  • Who was involved;
  • Exactly what was said or what the harasser or bully did;
  • Witnesses to the harassment or bullying;
  • What the student said or did, either at the time or later;
  • How the student felt; and
  • How the harasser or bully responded.


Sexual harassment may include unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.  Harassment or bullying on the basis of age, color, creed, national origin, race, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical attributes, physical or mental ability or disability, ancestry, political party preference, political belief, socioeconomic status or familial status includes conduct of a verbal or physical nature that is designed to embarrass, distress, agitate, disturb or trouble persons when:

  • Places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or property;
  • Has a substantially detrimental effect on the student’s physical or mental health;
  • Has the effect of substantially interfering with the student’s academic performance; or
  • Has the effect of substantially interfering with the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Verbal, physical or written harassment or abuse;
  • Pressure for sexual activity;
  • Repeated remarks to a person with sexual or demeaning implications; and
  • Suggesting or demanding sexual involvement, accompanied by implied or explicit threats.

Harassment or bullying based upon factors other than sex includes, but is not limited to:

  • Verbal, physical or written harassment or abuse;
  • Repeated remarks of a demeaning nature;
  • Implied or explicit threats concerning one’s grades, job, etc; and
  • Demeaning jokes, stories, or activities.


School districts are required to notify students on harassment and bullying.  School districts that have concerns about “secret societies” in the school may want to add language prohibiting them in accordance with Iowa Code 287.