Bullying in Utah Elementary Schools

Bullying is a problem through most middle to high schools in Utah but many parents are surprised to know it can begin as early as elementary school.

Photo by: Working Word

Bullying starts young

Bullying is most prevalent among middle school age children, but elementary and even preschool age kids can demonstrate early signs of bullying. Young children may act aggressively towards other children to get what they want or they may find that making fun of another child results in laughs from peers. While preschool age children may not have the understanding needed for their actions to constitute deliberate bullying, if unchecked, their behavior may develop into worse conduct as they enter grade school.

Kids at risk of being the bully

Once kids enter elementary school, they begin to observe more how their behavior affects their peers. While this could help kids develop more empathy and concern for others, it can backfire by showing children how to best bully those around them. There are several reasons why a child bullies another:
• They may be mimicking behavior seen at home;
• They could be using bullying to get attention or higher social standing amongst their peers;
• They could hurt another because their own self-esteem is low;
• Or they may have underdeveloped empathy, leaving them unable to see how their behavior is affecting others.

Kids at risk or being bullied

With every bully comes a victim. Sometimes there are multiple victims to one bully but usually there is a single child being picked on, and oftentimes by more than one of their peers. According to stopbullying.gov, “young people who are perceived as different from their peers are often at risk for being bullied.” Some examples of why certain kids are bullied include:
• A child who is naturally taller or built bigger than their classmates;
• A student with disabilities;
• Those who have non-traditional families including children of divorcees;
• A child who isn’t involved with local religious groups;
• Children of ethnic minorities;
• Kids who are naturally quiet or withdrawn, seen as easy targets that won’t fight back.

Prevent bullying at home

Parents are encouraged to teach their children empathy and compassion for others and to nip any signs of bullying in the bud as soon as they occur. Bullying that is not resolved can lead to suspension or expulsion from school and criminal charges if physical harm or threats occur or if electronic devices are used to torment others. Parents whose children are facing charges related to bullying should consult legal counsel from a juvenile defense attorney.

Utah Students Arrested for Making Terrorist Threats against High School

Three Utah students from Duchesne were arrested for making terrorist threats against their high school after other teens reported the plan to school officials.

Planned shooting and explosion

Photo by: Tony Webster

The three Utah teens, ranging in ages between 14 and 15 were arrested for making terrorist threats after they made plans to build and use a firearm and explosives at their school. Other teens found out about the plan and alerted school officials who immediately contacted authorities and put the school on lockdown. Although no firearms or weapons of mass destruction were found in the boy’s possession or in their lockers or home, authorities did confiscate a couple knives as well as written plans on building an explosive device. The boys were arrested for making terrorist threats and taken to a juvenile detention center.

Terrorist threats

Utah Code 76-5-107.3 states a person makes [terrorist threats] if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and:

(a) (i) threatens the use of a weapon of mass destruction . . . ; or

(ii) threatens the use of a hoax weapon of mass destruction . . . ; or

(b) acts with intent to:

(i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence or affect the conduct of a government or a unit of government;

(ii) prevent or interrupt the occupation of a building or a portion of the building, a place to which the public has access, or a facility or vehicle of public transportation operated by a common carrier; or

(iii)cause an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies to take action due to the person’s conduct posing a serious and substantial risk to the general public.”

Making terrorist threats can result in penalties ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony. Threatening to use an explosive on the population of a high school is liable to bring about the higher of those charges.


At this time there is no known motive as to why the three teens would want to set off explosives at their school. Are they violent individuals who truly wanted to inflict as much pain and damage as possible to their school and peers? Were they acting out towards peers who had bullied or harassed them? Or perhaps this was a troubled attempt for them to gain the attention of their parents, teachers or classmates. As the investigation continues, more will come to light on the mental stability of the teens involved and whether or not this was an actual threat or a petition for help. For more information on crimes committed by teens and how mental health evaluation plays a role in punishment for those crimes, contact a juvenile defense attorney.

Slander and Defamation of Peers in Utah

Usually starting in elementary and lasting through high school, what their peers think matters greatly to many Utah children teens and slander or defamation by any one person can be devastating and result in criminal charges.


Photo by: S. Packwood

Gossip or bad mouthing of peers by Utah kidscan happen whether through word of mouth, passing notes, or by text messages, Instagram, Snap Chat, and other online forums. While a little gossip is expected around school, although still discouraged, it can take a drastic turn if it is done with the intention of publicly humiliating the other person.


Defamation is described by law.com as “the act of making untrue statements about another which damages his/her reputation. If the defamatory statement is printed or broadcast over the media it is libel and, if only oral, it is slander.” Defamation is usually described as an intentional act by which lies are told with the objective of mentally or emotionally hurting another person. For this reason, it is against the law.

Penalties for defamation

Photo by: Alex Yosifov
Photo by: Alex Yosifov

Utah Code 76-9-404 states “A person is guilty of criminal defamation of he knowingly communicates to any person orally or in writing any information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.” They also add that “criminal defamation is a class B misdemeanor.”

Never a good reason

Utah kidsmay think they have a good reason for telling lies about a person. Maybe they are retaliating for the person embarrassing them at an earlier date? Perhaps they lack adequate self-esteem and choose to bring others down in an attempt to raise themselves up. Whatever excuse, there is never a good enough reason to bully another person. Not only can the bully face criminal charges, but their hurtful actions and words during a difficult and pivotal time in a person’s life can have lifelong negative effects on the victim.

Undetected Bullying May Have Led to Violent Outburst by Utah Teenager

After the stabbing that happened at an Orem high school this week, several Utah residents questioned if undetected bullying may have led to the violent outburst by the 16 year old teenager.

When bullying victims fight back

Photo by: Thomas Ricker
Photo by: Thomas Ricker

Although authorities are unaware of any bullying that may have occurred prior to the stabbing, it is not uncommon for teen bullying victims to quietly bear the tormenting before eventually lashing out at their oppressors; an act that is too often done immediately before harming themselves. While this may not be the case for this incident as stated by the suspect’s parents, something triggered this young man with perfect grades and no criminal record to snap.

Depression to aggression

Bullying is often a major cause of depression among teenagers. Bad-mouthing (in person or online), name calling, ostracizing, and/or physical confrontations by peers can often cause a teen to withdraw from family and friends. When teens withdraw, they are more likely to lose interest in things that used to make them happy. As depression sets in, teens may experience intense, prolonged times of sadness and despair. Depression is not always evident as sadness however; those suffering may become more irritable and have increased instances of aggression.

Photo by: Serge Saint

Watch for red flags of bullying victims

Stopbullying.gov lists nine warning signs that parents and teachers should be aware of to identify a child or teen who may be a victim of bullying:

• “Unexplainable injuries
• Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
• Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
• Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
• Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
• Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
• Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
• Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide”

Signs of an aggressor

Stopbullying.org also lists eight red flags that a child or teen may be the aggressor in bullying cases. “Kids may be bullying others if they:

• Get into physical or verbal fights
• Have friends who bully others
• Are increasingly aggressive
• Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
• Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
• Blame others for their problems
• Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
• Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity”

Taking appropriate action

If adults can be aware of bullying red flags and address them immediately with their teen, school personnel, as well as a counseling service that specializes in teen depression and mood disorders, many teens can receive the help they need to channel their feelings appropriately while those doing the bullying can be dealt with appropriately. If teens are facing criminal charges for a violent response to bullying they have endured, contact a juvenile defense attorney

Sexual Bullying by Teenage Girls

Teenage girls are continually educated to recognize and report instances of sexual harassment at school, yet some may unknowingly be the perpetrators in what is referred to as sexual bullying, a type of harassment.

Harassment knows no gender

Sexual bullying
Photo by: Alena Navarro- Whyte

Many kids are taught from a young age that inappropriate words or actions that make them uncomfortable may be harassment and should not be tolerated. Unfortunately, much of the emphasis over the years has been depicting girls as usually being the victims. Most teenage girls nowadays understand that sexual harassment knows no gender and that disciplinary action may result from any unwelcomed touching of their peers. Few realize however, that similar consequences may follow from sexual harassment in the form of bullying.

Slut shaming

One way that teenage girls may unknowingly be guilty of sexual bullying their peers is through what is known as slut shaming. Slut shaming is done when one person labels another as being overly sexual or “easy”, making them feel bad for their past of current sexual behaviors or relationships. This is a problem that all too frequently can include girls as both the victims and the perpetrators.

Gossiping and rumors

Gossiping and spreading rumors is another way that sexual bullying can take place and is rampant amid both genders. Hurtful remarks or phrases about someone’s sexuality or body parts, whether or not they are true may be written on bathroom stalls, texted to classmates, or even said directly or indirectly to the victims. Teens may see these instances as nothing more that mean jokes or downplay them as needing to be done to establish a pecking order; to the victim and authorities however, it is sexual bullying.

Educate all teenagers on sexual bullying

It is essential that all teenagers, both male and female, are properly educated on what type of behavior may be considered sexual bullying or harassment. It is encouraged that all youth and their parents review the sexual harassment policy offered by every school district in the state. Any sexual bullying or harassment that has ensued in criminal consequences should be discussed with a juvenile defense attorney.