Puerto Rico School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Bullying, Harassment, or Hazing

Discipline Compendium

Puerto Rico School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Bullying, Harassment, or Hazing

Category: Discipline Addressing Specific Code of Conduct Violations
Subcategory: Bullying, Harassment, or Hazing
State: Puerto Rico

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3 L.P.R.A. § 9809f. Bullying.

The bullying, harassment, or intimidation of students is hereby strictly prohibited within the school property or grounds and in its surrounding areas, during school sponsored activities, and/or in school buses.

(a) Bullying.- For a situation or disciplinary incident to be classified as bullying, the following elements must be present: (1) a continuous, repetitive, and intentional pattern of verbal, written, or physical acts by one or more students; (2) intended to cause harm or discomfort; and (3) where there is an imbalance of power whether real or perceived by the victim. Incidents of interpersonal violence or peer conflicts at the school where the aforementioned elements are not present shall not be classified as bullying.

(b) Cyberbullying.- Bullying may also be carried out through electronic communications or messaging including, but not limited to, text messages, emails, photographs, images, and social media posts using electronic devices such as telephones, mobile phones, computers, and tablets, among others.

(c) Duty to notify.- Any person who is aware of a bullying situation between students shall notify the school staff in order for the latter to make the pertinent evaluation and determination as to whether such case shall be classified as bullying. If, based on the evaluation, it is determined that there was no bullying, a written document shall be submitted to such effect including the grounds for such decision and the supporting evidence. The school staff shall report to the pertinent law enforcement authorities any bullying cases where the safety and wellbeing of the student or school community is threatened. Moreover, precautionary measures shall be taken as appropriate. These actions must be taken in conjunction with the regional staff, provided that the circumstances so allows, while following the protocols established by law or regulations.

(d) Resolving incidents.- In general, cases of bullying shall be addressed by school staff in order to repair the damage caused, thus restoring any strained relationships between school community members, and rehabilitating the parties involved while following the applicable protocols and regulations. If necessary, the process to refer the situation to the relevant authorities shall begin.

(e) Cases involving special education students.- Educational institutions shall be governed by the disciplinary procedures contained in the "Special Education Procedures Manual" whenever a student registered in the Department's Special Education Program is involved in a bullying case.

(f) Duty to inform.- The Secretary shall inform the students of the Public Education System about the provisions of this chapter and/or the regulations or rules related to the ban on bullying, through the authorized staff. The Secretary is hereby authorized to make these documents available to any private school in Puerto Rico in order to comply with the public policy set forth in our code of laws to eliminate harassment and intimidation from our educational institutions.

(g) Any student, staff member, or volunteer of a public school who submits a report, in good faith, containing an account of a bully harassing or intimidating another student shall be protected from any harm or retaliation resulting from reporting such incident.

(h) The Regional Superintendent, in conjunction with the School Principals and School Councils, shall provide public school employees and students with an opportunity to participate in training programs, activities, and workshops designed and developed to acquire the knowledge and tools related to the public policy set forth in this section on harassment and intimidation between students or school staff. Likewise, social workers and professional counselors shall have the responsibility to advise students on harassment and intimidation and shall offer counseling to both the bullying victims and the bullies.

(i) The Secretary shall submit an annual report to the Legislative Assembly, per school, on the bullying cases reported.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3802. General rights of the student.

All persons have the right to education. The education to be provided by the State shall be free for all students of the Public Education System. Elementary and secondary education shall be compulsory. All students shall be guaranteed equal protection of the laws and rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, the Constitution of Puerto Rico, and other applicable laws, regulations, and ordinances. Without it being construed as a limitation, students shall have the following rights:

(10) Right to a free and safe education.-

(a) Education shall be free and accessible in the primary and secondary school levels to every public school student between the ages of five (5) and twenty-one (21).

(b) Students shall have the right to enjoy a safe school environment; free from the illegal use and trafficking of drugs and weapons; and free from any type of attack to their physical, mental, or emotional integrity.

(c) Students shall have the right to an education free from discrimination, abuse, and neglect.

(d) The right to receive equal opportunities to enroll in the public education system shall be recognized and guaranteed to any student who lives in Puerto Rico, regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, birth, origin or ethnic background or nationality, political ideology, physical or mental disability, whether present or future, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and immigration status. Public schools may not deny or reject students from enrolling in school on account of immigration status or failure to provide proof of lawful presence in Puerto Rico. No student or his family members shall be inquired about the immigration status of a student, his parents, or custodians.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961. Establishment.

This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Government of Puerto Rico Anti-Bullying and Harassment Act", also known as the "Alexander Santiago- Martínez Act".

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961a. Applicability.

This chapter shall be applicable to the public schools of the Department of Education; private educational institutions, and all higher education institutions, as they are defined in Reorganization Plan 1-2010, as amended.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961b. Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, the following terms and phrases shall have the meanings expressed below:

(a) Harassment or intimidation and/or bullying.- Any pattern of intentional behavior, whether it is emotional or physical abuse or carried-out through electronic means or social media, which has the effect of frightening a student or group of students and interfering with his or their school opportunities and performance, in the classroom, school grounds, as well as in his or their immediate social environment. Harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying is a pattern of harassment that constitutes more than one act, whether continuous or not, over a period that usually lasts weeks, months, and even years.

(b) Harassment and intimidation though any electronic means or through the use of the internet and/or cyberbullying.- The use of any means of electronic, verbal, written, visual, or textual communication for the purpose of harassing, disturbing, intimidating, and bothering a student or group of students; that usually has the effect of physically or emotionally harming the affected student, and/or damaging his property, and causes unwanted disruptions with regards to the affected student's opportunities, performance, and benefits. Cyberbullying has a severe negative effect and impact on the educational environment even when it takes place outside of the school or immediate school environment.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961c. Liaison officials; training programs and workshops.

The Department of Education, the Private Schools Association, the Department of the Family, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, the Puerto Rico Police, and the Association of School Psychology of Puerto Rico shall have liaison officials in charge of handling cases of harassment and/or bullying in order to work cases from both public schools and private institutions. Furthermore, such departments and associations shall develop training programs and workshops on harassment and intimidation or bullying in public and private schools as well as higher education institutions to train teaching personnel, non-teaching personnel, parents, and students on bullying prevention, identification, and management strategies.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961d. Lead agency.

The Department of Education shall be the lead agency in charge of coordinating the efforts to create the Institutional Protocol for the Management of School Harassment, to be implemented in our public schools, and enforcing compliance therewith.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961e. Protocol to manage cases.

The Department of Education shall design a protocol to manage harassment and/or bullying cases internally which shall be used in public schools.

Every public, private, and higher education institution shall develop and implement an Institutional Protocol for the Management of School Harassment that includes the following factors:

(a) Objective;

(b) Justification;

(c) Definition and Description of bullying and cyberbullying;

(d) Institutional Expectations and Policy;

(e) Responsibilities of the members of the education community in what pertains to bullying in schools;

(f) Prevention Strategies;

(g) Protocol disclosure procedure;

(h) Case documentation, confidentiality, and records management procedures;

(i) Case reporting procedures;

(j) Strategies to investigate reported cases;

(k) Intervention strategies and penalties;

(l) Follow-up strategies; and

(m) Guidelines for referrals to healthcare professionals.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961g. Protocol to manage cases–Agency in charge to oversee compliance.

The Department of State of Puerto Rico shall be the agency in charge of overseeing compliance with this Protocol in private and higher education institutions. Every institution shall be required to report any harassment and/or bullying incident within any of its facilities or campuses to the Department of State, pursuant to the procedure established in the Protocol.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3961i. Statistics.

It shall be the duty of every primary, secondary, higher education institution, and university, whether public or private, to collect statistics on harassment and/or bullying cases that occur during the school year. Said statistics shall be submitted through annual reports filed not later than July 1st of every year with the Department of Education, in the case of public schools, and to the Department of State of Puerto Rico, in the case of higher education and private institutions.


No relevant regulations found.

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