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Bullying is garnering a great deal of media attention in Virginia and throughout the United States. Given the increasing technology and various ways in which communication can commence, the ways in which children can mistreat one another are increasing as well. This is another layer to the age-old manner of exerting will and abuse on other who are weaker or vulnerable. Before making accusations about bullying and trying to reference state law when dealing with it, it's important to understand how it is viewed and how to defend against accusations of it.

Bullying can be done physically, verbally, emotionally or sexually. If a person is being physically bullied, it can include all forms of abuse such as hitting, choking, pulling of the hair and biting. Emotional bullying can include causing embarrassment, extortion, blackmail and defamation. Verbal bullying can involve name-calling, gossiping and teasing. There is much confusion as to whether bullying is actually illegal with punitive measures taken if there are accusations of it. State law says that if there is aggressive and unwanted behavior that can cause various forms of damage to the victim and continues over time, it is considered bullying. Activities on the Internet are included in bullying.

Sometimes bullying rises to the level of criminal activity. If it is implied or overtly stated that physical harm to the individual or to his or her family will occur, this is threatening. Continually annoying or bothering someone so they are feeling anxiety or are in fear for their safety is considered harassment. Taking another's property by making threats or behaving violently is considered extortion. Making harmful physical contact is assault and battery. Stealing another's property using violence or intimidation is robbery. Coercing someone into doing things that could be harmful as a means of initiating him or her into a group is considered hazing.

All of these acts are dangerous not only physically, but emotionally as well. Sometimes people are accused of bullying when they are, in fact, innocent. Even if there was an incident that could be construed as bullying, it's important for those who are facing charges to formulate a sound defense to avoid penalties. A teenager and younger children can face long-term problems if they're facing unfounded accusations of crimes related to bullying. Discussing the matter with a legal professional experienced in various aspects of juvenile defense can be helpful.

Source: VirginiaRules.com, "Bullying," accessed April 14, 2015

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