A class-action lawsuit charging that the state’s truancy court system is devoid of due process protections in violation of state and federal law. Filed in the Rhode Island Superior Court against a number of state family court judges and officials of six school districts including Providence, the lawsuit charged that the truancy courts are frequently punitive in nature, and that truancy court magistrates threaten vulnerable children and their parents with baseless fines and imprisonment, remove children from the custody of their parents without legal justification and fail to keep adequate records of court hearings. The lawsuit also charged that the court system disproportionately impacts children who have difficulty attending school or doing their schoolwork because of special education or medical needs.

The lawsuit sought a preliminary injunction requiring an initial investigation of truancy charges before petitions are filed; the transcribing or reporting of all truancy court proceedings; and that the court be barred from issuing orders against students and parents over whom it has no jurisdiction. The lawsuit also sought final declaratory and injunctive relief requiring that court and school officials abide by federal state and constitutional and state statutory law.


Amy R. Tabor & Thomas W. Lyons (with Robin L. Dahlberg and Yelena Konanova of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, and Deborah N. Archer of New York Law School)

Date filed

April 30, 2007