Bullying Across the Life Course: Redefining Boundaries, Responsibility, and Harm
10 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2013 Last revised: 6 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 5, 2014
Over the last fifteen years, our understanding of bullying has experienced a radical redefinition. In our schools, universities, workplaces, and assisted living facilities, behavior that we once dismissed as “horseplay” or “teasing” has increasingly been labeled as unacceptable and, in some instances, criminal. We seem to have reached one of those societal tipping points where certain behaviors we once took for granted are no longer acceptable. Not that long ago, sexual harassment was simply the cost of being female in the workplace, but the 1980s saw a period of redefinition when sexual harassment was reinterpreted and understood to be a form of sex discrimination that was actionable under Title VII.
Today, we stand at a similar point of redefinition with regard to bullying. For lawyers and policy makers, however, this period of redefinition has raised a host of questions. Judges and legislatures have redrawn boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, rethought questions of responsibility and liability, and recognized a category of harm that has recalibrated our understanding of injury and causality. Although much of the focus on bullying has concentrated on primary and secondary education, it is clear that the phenomenon of bullying exists across the life course, from kindergarten through elder care.
Keywords: Bullying, LGBT, gay, lesbian, transgender, elder abuse, employment discrimination, workplace bullying, cyberbullying, employment practices, school bullying, Title XI, OSHA, It Gets Better, suicide prevention, LGBT youth, disability, autism
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