Is it Bullying or a Hate Crime? Utilizing Critical Discourse Analysis to Assess Political Framings of Prejudicial Violence Among Youth


Bullying has long been the primary frame for understanding and addressing youth prejudicial violence. Recently, however, there has been an increased political focus on youth hate crimes to frame similar behavior. Analyzing this shift in framing is crucial as the different frames shape how we understand the underlying problem and what responses, policy or otherwise, are necessary to address it. “Hate crime” primarily relies on a criminal framework for understanding prejudicial violence. Thus, the increased focus on youth “hate crimes” may have disastrous consequences for LGBTQ+ youth who experience both the harms of prejudicial violence and over-policing. This study has two objectives. First, utilizing critical discourse analysis, I will assess recent scholarship and federal and state policies related to “hate,” “identity-based bullying,” and “hate crimes” among youth. I will critically analyze the definitions, causal frameworks, and solutions offered in the texts. Second, in partnership with the GSA Network, I will interview 30 LGBTQ+ youth on their perceptions of these different policy framings, attitudes toward the criminal legal system, and understanding of accountability. Ultimately, the findings will be used to advance scholarly conceptualizations of “hate” among youth and will be used to inform current policy approaches addressing youth prejudicial violence.


Department of Social Welfare


Emily M. Waters, MSW/MPH, Dr. Laura Wray-Lake and Juniperangelica Gia Loving

Emily Maurin-Waters

Emily Maurin-Waters is a doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Her research critically examines how problems are constructed in social Policies and the impact of these constructions on marginalized communities.

Laura Wray-Lake

Laura Wray-Lake is a Professor of Social Welfare in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Her research focuses on how and why young people from different backgrounds and contexts become civically engaged.