Students' Rights Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Students' Rights

Visit our High-Stakes Testing Page for news, documents, and photos related to our years-long fight to stop high-stakes testing in Rhode Island.

Recent News:

  • The ACLU has called on all school districts that currently have school resource officers to re-evaluate their use in the schools and to revise the agreements they have with police departments that set out their job responsibilities. The call was prompted by incidents at Pawtucket’s Tolman High School, which reinforced many of the serious concerns the ACLU has long held regarding the routine presence of police officers in schools. 
  • Despite growing consensus that out-of-school suspensions should only be used as a discipline of last resort, Rhode Island school districts continued to overuse suspensions during the 2014-2015 school year, the ACLU's latest school discipline report has found. The report, Oversuspended and Underserved, a follow-up to previous ACLU reports on the use of suspensions in Rhode Island public schools, found that schools doled out 12,682 suspensions in the last school year, often for minor misconduct. As in previous years, students with disabilities and students of color served a disproportionate amount of these suspensions.

Protecting the rights of students is key because most people’s first major encounter with the government is in the school setting. For students to appreciate the importance of civil liberties, it is critical that their rights be practiced and protected in that setting.

Students' Rights in the News

  • Feb, 27, 2017: 15 Organizations Call on R.I. School Districts to Reaffirm Rights of Transgender Students
  • Feb, 21, 2017: ACLU Seeks Dismissal of Charges Under New Narragansett Student Housing Ordinance
  • Jan, 09, 2017: ACLU Statement on Detention for Students for Walk-out Over School Practices

View All Students' Rights Related News Releases »

Students' Rights Related Court Cases

2016: FHC v. City of Providence
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Due Process    Students' Rights    


UPDATE: 3/10/17 - Read our memorandum of law asking the court to strike down the ordinance.

The ACLU filed suit against the City of Providence to challenge a recently enacted city ordinance that prohibits more than three “college students” from living together in certain areas of the city. Our suit argues that the ordinance is discriminatory and ineffective at its stated purpose of improving neighborhoods, and will likely have the most impact on lower-income students. 

The lawsuit, filed in Rhode Island Superior Court by ACLU of RI cooperating attorneys Jeffrey L. Levy and Charles D. Blackman, is on behalf of the owner and tenants – four Johnson & Wales undergraduate students – of a house in the Elmhurst section of Providence. The City ordinance, enacted in September, makes this arrangement illegal by prohibiting more than three “college students” from living together in a non-owner-occupied single family home in certain residential areas. The suit argues that the ordinance violates the plaintiffs’ rights to due process and equal protection of the law.

The lawsuit claims that “there is absolutely no reason to believe that restricting the number of student tenants in a small subset of available rental housing (i.e., single-family homes) will make the affected neighborhoods any quieter, safer or cleaner. On the contrary, the ordinance is an unconstitutional intrusion into the rights of college and graduate students to choose with whom they wish to live, and the rights of property owners to rent their homes to tenants of their choice.”

We are seeking to halt all enforcement of the ordinance and have it declared unconstitutional.  In March 2017, we filed a memorandum of law explaining why the court should declare the ordinance unconstitutional.

Supporting Documents
2015: J.A. v. Town of Tiverton
Category: Active Case    Due Process    Privacy    Students' Rights    

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today filed a federal lawsuit against Tiverton police and school officials over an incident in which an 8-year-old girl was removed from a school bus, had her belongings searched, was taken alone to the police station without her parents’ knowledge, and then held and questioned at the police station for several hours before being released. The seizure, detention and interrogation of the young child were based solely on unsubstantiated claims from another child that the girl was carrying “chemicals” in her backpack, and occurred even after the police found nothing in the backpack.

Supporting Documents

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