Gillian BellFollow




Collyer, Charles

Advisor Department





nonviolence, non-violence, education, social change, Rhode Isaland


Nonviolence Education in Rhode Island

Gillian Bell

Faculty Sponsor: Charles Collyer, Psychology

In 2011, Rhode Island was rated the 8th Most Peaceful U.S. State by the Institute for Economics and Peace- an independent non-profit research institute- in their first official United States Peace Index. One of their key findings is that peacefulness is directly linked to the accessibility of fundamental social and environmental factors like economic opportunity, health and wellness, and education. Studies on nonviolence and violence prevention education programs have demonstrated the unique ability of focused curricula to dramatically change violent climates in schools and communities. This paper specifically reviews nonviolence trainings conducted in line with the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence, formally recognized as “Kingian Nonviolence.”

Even as one of the most peaceful states in the U.S., Rhode Island is still plagued by its share of violence. Communities all over the state, but particularly in our urban areas, are prone to acts of violence ranging from bullying in schools to domestic violence and shootings in the streets. These devastating and tormenting acts of aggression break apart families and neighborhoods and leave us far from feeling the support of King’s envisioned “Beloved Community.” Nonviolence, a dynamic and proactive strategy for the prevention and management of violence in all forms, was popularized in recent history by Mahatma Gandhi in India and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the southern Civil Rights Movement. The University of Rhode Island’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies was created in the hopes of institutionalizing the Kingian Nonviolence strategy and way of life, and to improve the overall positive peacefulness of the campus, community, state, nation, and world.

As a student of the University of Rhode Island’s Nonviolence and Peace Studies program, I have had the opportunity to take part in the institutionalization of nonviolence first hand. Since receiving my Level I training in Kingian Nonviolence at URI, I have co-taught three nonviolence curricula at varying age levels. Last semester I organized, planned, and lead a weekly nonviolence course for the 9th grade at the East Bay MET School in Newport, RI, with help from a fellow trainer. This semester I co-trained a Level I Introduction to Nonviolence college course, as a Teacher’s Assistant, and helped lead a weekly after-school Peace Club with 5th graders at Broad Rock Middle School in Wakefield, RI.

The nonviolence community in RI is active, motivated, and growing, but not always successfully collaborative. There are several different organizations in RI dedicated to the eradication of violence- but communications and co-sponsorship of nonviolence education or anti-bullying programs could be improved. This project assesses the state of nonviolence education in Rhode Island today through detailed personal interviews with nonviolence trainers, educators, and advocates. It details my own experience with nonviolence trainings and presents personal data, profiles other active nonviolence trainers/educators and their work, and presents a personal vision for the future of nonviolence education in the nation’s smallest, and 8th most peaceful state.

Keywords: nonviolence; nonviolence education; social change