Bullying is a pernicious problem among youth today with many contextual factors that must be considered when attempting to understand and implement interventions to address it. Despite the attitudes about bullying being a normal part of growing up, numerous studies have found that harmful effects are associated with bullying and victimization, many of which persist into adulthood. The extent of this problem appears to be associated with the absence of effective ways for children, parents, schools, researchers, policymakers, and governments to manage it. This study provides a comprehensive qualitative analysis on a representative sample of U.S. state laws and regulations to determine parallels and differences among them with particular attention to the inclusion or exclusion of cyberbullying. This study uses a social-ecological systems framework to consider bullying laws & regulations. This framework includes the microsystem (individuals), the mesosystem (parents), the exosystem (schools or school districts), and the macrosystem (governments and cultural milieu). With anti-bullying laws situated in the macrosystem, this study focused primarily on its influences; however, reciprocal influences among systems are also reflected. To gain insights from heterogeneous cultural environments, a purposive sampling process included one state from each of the 10 Federal regions of the country and also considered dates of initial bullying prevention law enactment, which provided a span of 16 years (1999 – 2015). The text of the laws and regulations was gathered from official State websites, as well as from the LexisNexis database. An iterative content analysis process was used to determine findings and study conclusions. Key findings and conclusions include that all states in the study currently address cyberbullying in their bullying prevention laws and regulations to some degree. Definitions of bullying varied between states, and some policymakers used research-based definitional elements. There was also considerable variation between states’ anti-bullying laws on eight components: staff training, communicating policy, complaint reporting and responding to bullying, corrective measures, disciplinary actions, reporting bullying, retaliation and false reporting, and funding for supporting bullying prevention. Recommendations include performing additional studies on bullying using the social-ecological framework, considering cyberbullying and teachers’ preconceptions of bullying, and to determine effectiveness of existing laws.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Bullying in schools -- Law and legislation; Bullying in schools -- Prevention

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;