Harassment - When Bullying Becomes Illegal with Sgt John Garcia
I sat down with Sgt Garcia to discuss bullying and how/when it crosses the line and becomes illegal. The illegal side of bullying is called harassment. While bullying should never be okay, parents please note that your child could be facing legal consequences for harassment when it is taken too far. Sgt John Garcia is part of the Longmont Police Department's Special Operations Divisions, SWAT and the head of the SRO (School Resource Officer) Program for Longmont Schools in Saint Vrain Valley School District.
Q- What is bullying? What is harassment?
A- Bullying - Bullying is defined by Wikipedia (in part) as: Bullying is the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception (by the bully or by others) of an imbalance of physical or social power. This imbalance distinguishes bullying from conflict. Bullying is the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally. To read the full definition please click this link - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying
While there is no statute or law with the word "bullying" in it, once the elements of harassment have been met then it does become criminal.
Harassment - Below you will find the Elements of Harassment. Once the elements are met it is criminal and you can be charged accordingly.
18-9-111. Harassment - Kiana Arellano’s Law.
(1) A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:(a) Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise touches a person or subjects him to physical contact; or(b) In a public place directs obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or at another person; or(c) Follows a person in or about a public place; or(d) Repealed.(e) Directly or indirectly initiates communication with a person or directs language toward another person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telephone network, data network, text message, instant message, computer, computer network, computer system, or other interactive electronic medium in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, computer system, or other interactive electronic medium that is obscene; or(f) Makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation; or(g) Makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home or private residence or other private property; or(h) Repeatedly insults, taunts, challenges, or makes communications in offensively coarse language to, another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.(1.5) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “obscene” means a patently offensive description of ultimate sexual acts or solicitation to commit ultimate sexual acts, whether or not said ultimate sexual acts are normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or excretory functions.(2)(a) A person who violates subsection (1)(a) or (1)(c) of this section or violates any provision of subsection (1) of this section with the intent to intimidate or harass another person, in whole or in part, because of that person’s actual or perceived race; color; religion; ancestry; national origin; physical or mental disability, as defined in section 18-9-121 (5)(a); or sexual orientation, as defined in section 18-9-121 (5)(b), commits a class 1 misdemeanor.(b) A person who violates subsection (1)(e), (1)(f), (1)(g), or (1)(h) of this section commits a class 2 misdemeanor.(c) A person who violates subsection (1)(b) of this section commits a petty offense.(3) Any act prohibited by paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of this section may be deemed to have occurred or to have been committed at the place at which the telephone call, electronic mail, or other electronic communication was either made or received.(4) to (6) Repealed.(7) Paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of this section shall be known and may be cited as “Kiana Arellano’s Law”.(8) This section is not intended to infringe upon any right guaranteed to any person by the first amendment to the United States constitution or to prevent the expression of any religious, political, or philosophical views.
Q- Is harassment and bullying illegal?
A- Yes harassment is illegal. Bullying is not necessarily illegal but it can be if the Elements of Harassment are met.
Q- At what point does bullying turn illegal?
A- When you are able to show the elements of a specific crime being committed; such as, harassment, tampering, menacing or assault, to name a few, then the bullying has turned into harassment which is criminal. Even if the bullying never reaches the point to being criminal there can still be disciplinary actions and consequences at the school level.
Q- What should you do if your child is being bullied and it won't stop?
A- I would suggest that you speak to the school staff/principal and or the school SRO first about your concerns. If after speaking to them you still feel like it is not being taken care of then you can escalate your concerns to the school district level and or speak to the SRO Supervisor (currently that is me, Sgt Garcia) to be investigated. It is helpful to keep documentation for proof of allegations. If it is being done digitally encourage your child not to engage and keep record of incidents. Keeping a journal of all incidents can be very helpful in an investigation and the more information you can provide the better.
Remember if we don't know then we can't help so don't be afraid to let us know and ask for help.
Q- What are some resources for parents to turn to regarding bullying and harassment?
A- Th internet, police department and school SROs all have information on bullying. The SROs can provide information to students and school staff and are happy to attend parent group meetings to present information as well. (At the bottom of the page you will find some links for more information on bullying.)
Q- At what age can a child be arrested for harassment?
Age Children Can be Charged: CRS 19-2.5-304(2)(2) A juvenile court shall not order a juvenile who is ten years of age and older but less than thirteen years of age to detention unless the juvenile has been arrested for a felony or weapons charge pursuant to section 18-12-102, 18-12-105, 18-12-106, or 18-12-108.5. A preadjudication service program created pursuant to section 19-2.5-606 shall evaluate a juvenile described in this subsection (2).
Essentially, anyone under 13 years of age can not be taking to a detention facility for any crime that is not a Felony 1 or 2 or doesn't involve a weapons charge. That being said, a child who is 10 years of age or older, may be ticketed for harassment.
Q- If you call the police to report harassment, what can you expect to typically happen?
A- When the police show up they will have a lot of questions so be prepared to provide them with as many details as you can. The more information you can provide the better. If they find that the allegations are not criminal in nature then they will let you know and you can address your concerns with the school instead. If they find that the allegations are criminal in nature then they will investigate the issue and proceed as needed. They might need a few days to investigate the allegations so please be patient and let them do their job. If they tell you they need some time to investigate then you should expect a call back in a few days. If you have not heard back in a few days then don't be afraid to call and check in on the progress.
Q- What are the three main things you want parents to know about bullying and harassment?
- Don't be afraid to speak up if you have a concern.
- Be proactive with your children and help them develop a plan to deal with bullies beforehand so they are prepared if they end up having to deal with that.
- Don't try to handle it with another child on your own. Do not go after a minor as you can get yourself in trouble. Ask for help.