Students' Rights - Court Cases, Legislation, News, Fact Sheets


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Students' Rights


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 protected in school.

Students' Rights in the News

  • Aug, 01, 2018: ACLU Sues Charter School for Failing to Provide Records on Policy Governing Transgender Students
  • Jul, 26, 2018: ACLU and RI Legal Services Ask Dept of Ed to Reject Warwick Request to Impose Student Fees
  • Jun, 01, 2018: Some RI School Districts Remain Non-Compliant with Trans Student Policy Requirement

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Students' Rights Related Court Cases

2018: ACLU v. Miller
Category: Discrimination    LGBT Rights    Open Government    Students' Rights    

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit filed in RI Superior Court against the Achievement First Mayoral Academy for failure to respond to requests from the ACLU for copies of its policy pertaining to the rights and protections afforded transgender students.  The lawsuit argue that the school's failure to respond is a violation of the state's open records law.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in August 2018.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Annie Goldberg

Supporting Documents
2016: Federal Hill Capital v. City of Providence
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Due Process    Students' Rights    

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit against the City of Providence challenging a city ordinance that prohibits more than three “college students” from living together in certain areas of the city.  The lawsuit, filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, is on behalf of the owner and tenants of a house in the Elmhurst section of Providence. The suit argues that the ordinance violates the plaintiffs’ rights to due process and equal protection of the law.

Current Status:
In February 2018, the Court ruled against the rights of the college students. The ACLU of RI is considering appealing the ruling to the RI Supreme Court.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Jeffrey L. Levy, Charles D. Blackman

Supporting Documents

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Students' Rights Related Legislation

School Resources Officers (H7200A, Article 9) PASSED
Category: 2018    Students' Rights    

There were a number of bills introduced this year seeking to improve school security by imposing police-type enforcement measures into the school setting, including one buried within the 2019 budget. The provision, by offering three years worth of funds to school districts to pay the officers' salaries, has made much more likely that most schools in Rhode Island will have an armed police officer in their halls in the near future. Yet, the problems that come with SROs remain unaddressed. The ACLU and other groups advocated for language clarifying the responsibilities and limitations of SROs, but no amendments were included in the approved budget, and the provision passed as it was proposed.

Arming Campus Police (H 7938) DIED
Category: 2018    Students' Rights    

Following an active shooter scare on the campus of the University of Rhode Island in 2013, every public higher education institution in the state was given authority to decide whether or not to arm their campus police. Only the University of Rhode Island chose to do so. This legislation sought to overrule every other institution’s decision (H 7938) by requiring them to arm campus police, regardless of the wishes of school administrators or students. The ACLU testified in opposition to this legislation, noting that introducing armed officers to college campuses can chill academic freedom and brings with it the very real danger of tragic cases of misunderstandings and misidentifications. The committee did not vote on the legislation.

School Computer Privacy (H 7710, S 2644) DIED
Category: 2018    Students' Rights    

In recent years, school districts statewide have begun handing out school-owned computers for at-home use by students. These devices carry virtually no privacy protections, allowing schools to spy on students at home. In April, the ACLU testified in support of legislation by Rep. Jeremiah O'Grady (H 7710) and Sen. Adam Satchell (S 2644) allowing school officials to search the devices only when there is reasonable suspicion to believe the child has engaged in misconduct, and to prohibit remote access except in limited circumstances. In 2017, the ACLU published a report, entitled “High School Non-Confidential,” which highlighted the need for this legislation. Neither committee acted on the legislation.

Over the Counter Medication in Schools (H 7570, S 2340) Passed House; Died in Senate
Category: 2018    Students' Rights    

Current Department of Health regulations, opposed by the ACLU, require parental permission. Legislation introduced this year by Rep. Susan Donovan (H 7570A) and Sen. Jeanine Calkin (S 2340) highlighted the absurdity of the current policy by also allowing students to bring to school over-the-counter products to treat menstrual cramps or vaginal yeast infections without a doctor’s or parent’s note. The ACLU testified in support of the legislation; you can read our testimony here. The House passed an amended version of the legislation in June, addressing over the counter medications generally, but the Senate failed to vote on the bill.