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  1. Home
  2. Bullying
  3. Race, Ethnicity, National Origin & Religion

Race, Ethnicity, National Origin & Religion

Schools and communities that respect diversity can help protect children against bullying behavior. However, when children are not in supportive environments, they may be at a higher risk of being bullied.

When bullying is sufficiently serious and based on race/ethnicity, national origin, or religion, it may be considered discriminatory harassment. Learn more about federal civil rights laws.

If you or someone you know has been bullied because of their race/ethnicity, national origin, or religion at school you can:

  1. Notify a school leader.
  2. Write down the details.
  3. Ask for a language interpreter and translated documents and messages if you need help communicating with school staff in a language other than English.
  4. Consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. Department of Education.

Confronting COVID-19-Related Harassment in Schools

In schools around the country, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students have reported bullying and harassment by classmates because of their race or national origin, including their ethnicity, ancestry, and language.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (Division) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education jointly issued a resource for students and families on confronting COVID-19 related bullying and harassment against AAPI students.  The document provides timely examples of incidents the Division and OCR can investigate and reminds parents of specific actions that can be taken when schools fail to respond to reports of harassment based on race or national origin. The document is available in multiple languages listed below.

English Fact Sheet | မြန်မာစကား (Burmese) | 简体字 (Chinese - Simplified) | 簡體字 (Chinese – Traditional) | Hakha Chin (Hakha Chin)日本語 (Japanese) | ကညီကျိာ် (Karen) | ខ្មែរ (Khmer) | 한국어 (Korean) | ພາສາລາວ (Lao) | Tagalog (Tagalog) | ไทย (Thai) | Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

It is not clear how often kids get bullied because of their race or national origin, including their ethnicity, ancestry, and language. Research is still growing. We do know, however, that Black and Hispanic youth who are bullied are more likely to suffer academically than their white peers.

  • Books for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Youth

    The Friendship Makers is a book from the Star Collection series for kindergarten through third grade readers that aims to respectfully reflect, honor, and celebrate some of the shared characteristics across many AIAN communities.

Religion and Faith

Very little research has explored bullying based on religious differences. Bullying in these situations may have less to do with a person’s beliefs and more to do with misinformation or negative perceptions about how someone expresses that belief. 

Children of any religion or faith may be bullied because of faith-related practices, such as prayer, fasting, the avoidance of certain foods or activities, and wearing visible faith-related attires. For example, Muslim girls who wear hijabs (head scarves), Sikh boys who wear patka or dastaar (turbans), and Jewish boys who wear yarmulkes (skullcap) report being targeted because of these visible symbols of their religions. They could even be physically bullied by the forceful removal of these significant clothing items by others.

When bullying based on religion is sufficiently serious, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division may be able to intervene under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act. Often religious harassment is not based on the religion itself but on shared ethnic characteristics. When harassment is based on shared ethnic characteristics, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights may be able to intervene under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

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