Once considered a teenage rite of passage, bullying is now the subject of hundreds of state laws and a rallying cry for pundits, parents and celebrities, reports Stateline. The stakes are high, because many teens who commit suicide experienced at least some bullying. Bullying by itself does not cause suicide, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that youth who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, think about suicide and attempt suicide. On the punishment side, five states don't have any sanctions for bullying in their anti-bullying laws, while 12 states include a criminal sanction for bullies, ranging from school suspension to jail time, says the Cyberbullying Research Center.
Two Florida teens face felony aggravated stalking charges for bullying a 12-year-old classmate, Rebecca Sedwick, who committed suicide. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the bullying crossed the line from teen meanness into criminal harassment. Using the criminal justice system to stop bullying should be the last resort, but it isn't unprecedented, said Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor of criminal justice at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Reported rates of bullying have remained stable since the first anti-bullying laws took effect in 2005. Each year since then, about 28 percent of students, ages 12-18, reported some kind of bullying, says the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey.