When bullying becomes a crime


DENVER — Bullying can take many forms — including gossip, name-calling and physical confrontation — and many children may experience it when they return to school.

In 2019, about 1 in 4 middle- and high-school-aged children reported being bullied. Parents have the power to take legal action, but it is important to distinguish between bullying and criminal actions.

“You would have charges, such as harassment, up to and including assault,” said Nicole Duncan, defense attorney and member of the Sam Cary Bar Association.

In Colorado, children 10 and older can be prosecuted in juvenile court. This year, however, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill creating a task force that will study the possible impact of raising the minimum age of prosecution for minors from 10 to 13 years old.


Under Colorado law, a person’s actions may be considered harassment if “with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person”, they:

  • Hits, shoves, kicks or otherwise touches a person or subjects the person to physical contact
  • In a public place uses obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or to another person; Where
  • Follows a person in or near a public place

Cyberbullying may also be considered harassment under state law when the conduct is “in a manner intended to harass or threaten to cause bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comments, requests, suggestions or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, computer system, or any other interactive electronic medium that is obscene.”


In Colorado, there are several types of assaults. In the case of bullying, the assault may involve the reckless or intentional infliction of bodily harm.


The crime of threat can occur under Colorado law if “by threat or physical action he knowingly places or attempts to place another person in fear of imminent grievous bodily harm.” In schools, bullies may be subject to disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or referral to law enforcement.

Duncan said parents have the ability to escalate bullying issues on their own by filing a police report or contacting the district attorney.

She said escalating concerns can help achieve results, but it could also have a long-term negative impact on the child who would face charges. It is always wise for parents to consider several factors, including whether the bullying is extreme and pervasive and whether the school is able to truly stop it in a way that protects the physical and mental health of the child. ‘child.

When it comes to bullying, an ounce of prevention could be worth a pound of legal remedy.

Savanah Overturf, who was bullied as a child, was crowned Miss National Amazing 2021, in part for her dedication to bullying prevention through education. The Colorado State University student started a program called The Inclusion Project.

“I go to businesses, schools, and any organization that will have me and talk to them about understanding those differences,” Overturf said. “For young kids, there’s a lot of talk about bullying and a lot about accepting each other, which is so important.”

Whether bullying is discouraged by education, school policies or legal action, statistics show that it is important to recognize it. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, when adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, the behavior may stop over time.


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