Defining Bullying As A Punishable Offense

Stand Up To Bullying
feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A father of a player on the Western Hills High School football team in Texas filed a formal complaint of bullying against the coach of a rival team, after the rival team beat Western Hills by a score of 91-0.

The coach said that he had played his C-string players in the third and fourth quarter but short of telling his players to take a knee for the whole second half, he didn’t know what else to do in the extremely ill-matched game.

No doubt Western Hills players were embarrassed (as were the dads, obviously). But is it really bullying? And what’s the legal penalty?

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It would be difficult to define a game, even an unevenly matched game, as bullying. But even if it were, unless bullying is serious enough and repeated enough to become harassment or stalking, it’s not a crime. It is a behavior that a school has a right to discipline under its code of conduct but it’s not illegal under the criminal code.

Whether a team should be disciplined for playing well, that seems like common sense. Even the coach of the losing team would likely admit that winning is not a punishable offense.

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