Are there any laws protecting LGBT students from bullying in Rhode Island?
Yes. In 2011, Rhode Island passed the “Safe Schools Act” that applies to all school districts, charter schools, career and technical schools and approved private day or residential schools in Rhode Island.
It defines “bullying” as written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof directed at a student by one or more students that:
- causes or places the student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to the student’s property,
- creates an intimidating, threatening, hostile or abusive educational environment,
- infringes on the rights of the student to participate in school activities, or
- disrupts the educational process or orderly operation of the school (R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-33(a)(1)).
The law identifies characteristics that may be reasonably perceived to have motivated the act of “bullying” as including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-33(a)(1)(v)).
The law goes on to define “cyber-bullying” as bullying through the use of technology or electronic communication (R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-33(a)(2)).
The law charges the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDE) to prescribe a statewide bullying policy that must be adopted by all the schools by June 30, 2012. The policy must include:
- procedures for students, staff, parents and others to report bullying,
- procedures for promptly responding to and investigating reports of bullying or retaliation,
- the range of disciplinary actions that may be taken,
- a parental engagement strategy,
- procedures for restoring a sense of safety for the student,
- strategies for protecting a person who reports bullying or assists in the investigation,
- procedures for promptly notifying the parents of both the perpetrator and victim,
procedures for providing appropriate counseling for the victim, perpetrator and others affected by the bullying (R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-34).