One-third want criminal action against non-violent bullies

October 21, 2013, 2:20 PM GMT+0

More than one-third of Americans want non-violent bullies to face criminal consequences for their actions, while Republicans are the most likely people to say bullying is a normal part of growing up.

Bullying has hit the headlines once again after a case in Florida saw a 12-year-old girl commit suicide after she was allegedly harrassed and bullied for months by two other young girls. The two girls are now facing prosecution for 'aggravated stalking', sparking debate over whether or not young children should face criminal charges for bullying. Some states - notably Massachusetts - have responded to similar cases of suicide after bullying by passing new laws requiring yearly anti-bullying education for students and setting up structures for students and teachers to report bullying, but shy away from criminalizing most bullying.

The latest research from YouGov shows that Americans generally support students facing criminal consequences for violent bullying (91%) or threatening behavior (80%), but are much more reluctant to involve the police if violence is not a factor. That said, a very high proportion of people still want criminal action to be taken against a student who humiliates other students (40%), spread rumors about other students (37%) or even isolates them socially (34%).

There is far more consensus on whether or not schools should intervene in any of these situations, with overwhelming majorities of Americans in each case saying that teachers and school officials should get involved. 69% say that schools should get involved if a student is being socially isolated - 78% say that this behavior is bullying - with Republicans (23%) and men (26%) being the most likely to say that schools should not get involved.

There was little difference between various groups when asked whether something was bullying and how bullying should be treated, but the same cannot be said for expectations of whether or not bullying is just a normal part of growing up. Significantly, Democrats are much more likely than Indepdendents and Republicans to say that bullying is not a normal part of growing up. Republicans, in fact, are more likely to say that it is normal (47%) than not normal (45%).

Last week on October 17th was 'Spirit Day', a day organized in schools for people to show their support for efforts to stop bullying of LGBT youth. The day is organized by LGBT advocacy group GLAAD.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty.

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