Chapter 178


Enacted 06/30/11





     Introduced By: Senators Lanzi, Tassoni, Paiva Weed, Ciccone, and DiPalma

     Date Introduced: March 23, 2011


It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:


     SECTION 1. Title. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Safe School Act.”


     SECTION 2. Findings of fact and purpose.


     (1) The general assembly recognizes that the bullying of a student creates a climate of

fear and disrespect than can seriously impair the student's health and negatively affect learning.

Bullying undermines the safe learning environment that students need to achieve their full

potential. Any form or degree of bullying at school is therefore prohibited.

     (2) Within this context, it is important that all participants feel free to express their

thoughts and ideas in a manner that does not disrupt the educational process, or create

unnecessary distractions to, or adversely impact, the interpersonal relationships between the

students, faculty and staff.


     SECTION 3. Chapter 16-21 of the General Laws entitled "Health and Safety of Pupils" is

hereby amended by adding thereto the following sections:


     16-21-33. Safe schools act. -- (a) Definitions. -- As used in this chapter:

     (1) “Bullying” means the use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic

expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof directed at a student that:

     (i) Causes physical or emotional harm to the student or damage to the student's property;

     (ii) Places the student in reasonable fear of harm to himself/herself or of damage to

his/her property;

     (iii) Creates an intimidating, threatening, hostile, or abusive educational environment for

the student;

     (iv) Infringes on the rights of the student to participate in school activities; or

     (v) Materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of

a school. The expression, physical act or gesture may include, but is not limited to, an incident or

incidents that may be reasonably perceived as being motivated by characteristics such as race,

color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and

expression or mental, physical, or sensory disability, intellectual ability or by any other

distinguishing characteristic.

     (2) “Cyber-bullying” means bullying through the use of technology or any electronic

communication, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, any transfer of signs, signals,

writing, images, sounds, data, texting or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part

by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, including, but not

limited to, electronic mail, Internet communications, instant messages or facsimile

communications. For purposes of this section, cyber-bullying shall also include:

     (i) The creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of

another person;

     (ii) The knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or

messages; or

     (iii) The distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or

the posting of materials on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons, if

the creation, impersonation, or distribution results in any of the conditions enumerated in clauses

(i) to (v) of the definition of bullying herein.

     (3) "At school" means on school premises, at any school-sponsored activity or event

whether or not it is held on school premises, on a school-transportation vehicle, at an official

school bus stop, using property or equipment provided by the school, or creates a material and

substantial disruption of the education process or the orderly operation of the school.


     16-21-34. Statewide bullying policy implemented. -- (a) The Rhode Island department

of education shall prescribe by regulation a statewide bullying policy, ensuring a consistent and

unified, statewide approach to the prohibition of bullying at school. The statewide policy shall

apply to all schools that are approved for the purpose of section 16-9-1 and shall contain the


     (1) Descriptions of and statements prohibiting bullying, cyber-bullying and retaliation of


     (2) Clear requirements and procedures for students, staff, parents, guardians and others to

report bullying or retaliation;

     (3) A provision that reports of bullying or retaliation may be made anonymously;

provided, however, that no disciplinary action shall be taken against a student solely on the basis

of an anonymous report;

     (4) Clear procedures for promptly responding to and investigating reports of bullying or


     (5) The range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against a perpetrator for bullying

or retaliation; provided, however, that the disciplinary actions shall balance the need for

accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior; and provided, further:

     (i) A parental engagement strategy; and

     (ii) A provision that states punishments for violations of the bullying policy shall be

determined by the school’s appropriate authority; however, no student shall be suspended from

school unless it is deemed a necessary consequence of the violations;

     (6) Clear procedures for restoring a sense of safety for a victim and assessing that

victim’s needs for protection;

     (7) Strategies for protecting from bullying or retaliation a person who reports bullying,

provides information during an investigation of bullying or witnesses or has reliable information

about an act of bullying;

     (8) Procedures for promptly notifying the parents or guardians of a victim and a

perpetrator; provided, further, that the parents or guardians of a victim shall also be notified of the

action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation; and provided, further, that the

procedures shall provide for immediate notification of the local law enforcement agency when

criminal charges may be pursued against the perpetrator;

     (9) A provision that a student who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or

retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action;

     (10) A strategy for providing counseling or referral to appropriate services currently

being offered by schools or communities for perpetrators and victims and for appropriate family

members of said students. The plan shall afford all students the same protection regardless of

their status under the law;

     (11) A provision that requires a principal or designee to be responsible for the

implementation and oversight of the bullying policy;

     (12) Provisions for informing parents and guardians about the bullying policy of the

school district or school shall include, but not be limited to:

     (i) A link to the policy prominently posted on the home page of the school district’s

website and distributed annually to parents and guardians of students;

     (ii) A provision for notification, within twenty-four (24) hours, of the incident report, to

the parents or guardians of the victim of bullying and parents or guardians of the alleged

perpetrator of the bullying;

     (13) A school employee, school volunteer, student, parent, legal guardian, or relative

caregiver who promptly reports, in good faith, an act of bullying to the appropriate school official

designated in the school's policy is immune from a cause of action for damages arising from

reporting bullying;

     (14) This section does not prevent a victim from seeking redress under any other

available law, either civil or criminal. This section does not create or alter any tort liability;

     (15) Students shall be prohibited from accessing social networking sites at school, except

for educational or instructional purposes and with the prior approval from school administration.

Nothing in this act shall prohibit students from using school department or school websites for

educational purposes. School districts and schools are encouraged to provide in-service training

on Internet safety for students, faculty and staff; and

     (16) All school districts, charter schools, career and technical schools, approved private

day or residential schools and collaborative schools shall be subject to the requirements of this

section. School districts and schools must adopt the statewide bullying policy promulgated

pursuant to this section by June 30, 2012.


     SECTION 4. Section 16-21-26 of the General Laws in Chapter 16-21 entitled "Health

and Safety of Pupils" is hereby repealed.


     16-21-26. Student discipline codes. -- (a) As used in this section:

      (1) "At school" means in a classroom, elsewhere on or immediately adjacent to school

premises, on a school bus or other school-related vehicle, at an official school bus stop, or at any

school-sponsored activity or event whether or not it is held on school premises.

      (2) "Harassment, intimidation or bullying" means an intentional written, electronic,

verbal or physical act or threat of a physical act that, under the totality of circumstances:

      (i) A reasonable person should know will have the effect of: physically harming a

student, damaging a student's property, placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his or her

person, or placing a student in reasonable fear of damage to his or her property; or

      (ii) Is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating,

threatening or abusive educational environment for a student.

      (3) "Electronic" communications shall include any verbal, textual or graphic

communication of any kind effected, created or transmitted by the use of any electronic device,

including, but not limited to, a computer, telephone, cellular telephone, text-messaging device

and/or personal data assistance device.

      (b) The board of a school district of a public school shall adopt a policy prohibiting

harassment, intimidation, or bullying at school. The policy shall specifically prohibit harassment,

intimidation and bullying by students at school and address prevention of an education about such

behavior. The policy shall be adopted through a process that includes representation of parents or

guardians, school employees, volunteers, pupils, school administrators and community


      (c) Each school district shall adopt the policy under this section and transmit a copy of

its policy to the commissioner of elementary and secondary education and director of the

department of education by September 1, 2004.

      (d) To assist school districts and public schools in developing policies for the prevention

of harassment, intimidation or bullying, the department of education shall develop a model policy

applicable to grades K-12. This model policy shall be issued no later than December 1, 2003.

      (e) A school district shall ensure that notice of the school district's or public school's

policy under this section is included in any publication of the school district or public school

policy that sets forth the comprehensive rules, procedures and standards of conduct for its schools

and in its pupil handbook.

      (f) A school employee, pupil or volunteer shall not, nor shall those individuals solicit

others with the intent to engage in reprisal, retaliation or false accusation against a victim, witness

or one with reliable information about an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying.

      (g) A school employee, pupil or volunteer who has witnessed or has reliable information

that a pupil has been subjected to harassment, intimidation or bullying, whether written, verbal or

physical, is encouraged to report the incident to the appropriate school official designated by the

school district's or public school's policy.

      (h) A school employee who promptly reports an incident of harassment, intimidation or

bullying to the appropriate school official designated by the school district's or public school's

policy, and who makes this report in compliance with the procedures in the policy prohibiting

harassment, intimidation or bullying is not liable for damages arising from any failure to remedy

the reported incident.

      (i) Public schools and school districts are encouraged to form bullying prevention task

forces, programs and other initiatives involving school staff, pupils, administrators, volunteers,

parents, law enforcement and community members.

      (j) Each school district or public school shall do all of the following:

      (1) Provide training on the school district's or public school academy's harassment,

intimidation or bullying policies to school employees and volunteers who have significant contact

with pupils. The training may include promotion of conflict resolution and mediation techniques

for resolving conflicts between and among pupils without violence.

      (2) Develop a process for discussing the harassment, intimidation or bullying policy with

pupils. The process may include teaching pupils techniques for preventing and resolving conflicts

without violence, including dating violence and interpersonal violence.

      (k) A school district or public school academy shall incorporate information regarding

the school district or public or private school academy's policy against harassment, intimidation

or bullying into each school's employee training program.

      (l) This section does not prevent a victim from seeking redress under any other available

law, either civil or criminal. This section does not create or alter any tort liability.


     SECTION 5. This act shall take effect upon passage.



LC02200/SUB A/2