Over ACLU objections, Governor Chafee has signed into law problematic legislation designed to address the problem of bullying in the schools. The new law redefines bullying to include any communication by a student that causes another student “emotional harm,” allows schools to mete out punishment for bullying happening outside of school, and encourages police intervention in many instances of “bullying.” The ACLU noted that true bullying was already illegal under existing state laws, that police intervention would transform incidents of childish teasing into criminal matters, and could significantly impact the First Amendment rights of students. Despite presenting testimony from anti-bullying experts that better education, not punitive sanctions, was the appropriate way to deal with bullying, the ACLU failed to convince the legislature to defeat the bill. Read the ACLU's letter asking the governor to veto the legislation here and read the letter sent by other organizations here.
Bullying (H 5941, S 732)
Representative Deborah Ruggiero and Senator Beatrice Lanzi