2011-07-07 / News

Governor signs cyberbullying legislation

The General Assembly approved and the governor has signed legislation – The Safe Schools Act – directing the Rhode Island Department of Education to establish a model policy on cyberbullying prevention.

The new law directs the Department of Education to provide an age-appropriate model policy on bullying prevention to ensure a unifi ed, statewide policy that follows Rhode Island General laws.

That policy, under the legislation, will include prohibitions against bullying, cyberbullying and retaliation; clear procedures for students, staff, parents, guardians and others to report bullying; procedures for responding to and investigating reports of bullying, and a range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against a perpetrator for bullying.

Further, the bill requires that, by Jan. 1, 2012, any school district policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying be amended to include Internet and cyberspace guidelines. Those guidelines are to provide that “no student, employee, faculty or staff of a public school shall post, forward or otherwise disseminate any data, documents, photos, images or videos or other information using any technology medium, including social networking websites, which might result in a disruption of classroom activity of the educational process.”

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Beatrice A. Lanzi and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero. The bill was developed by a special legislative commission that spent more than a year studying the issues of cyberbullying, cyberthreats, bullying and sexting. Lanzi and Representative Ruggiero served on that study panel.

Said Ruggiero, “We need one statewide policy on this important issue, not the current 36 different policies of each school district. The Safe Schools Act will help teachers, administrators, parents and students identify, respond to and investigate an incident of bullying and cyberbullying. No parent should bury a child and certainly not because of bullycide, which is bullying that leads to suicide.”

Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist called it “critical legislation on an important issue. We must all step in and step up to make our schools safe places for great teaching and learning.”

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