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

  • Jan, 27, 2020: Groups Voice Alarm Over Scheduled State Education Vote on English Language Learners
  • Jan, 20, 2020: ACLU Takes Legal Action over Unlawful Arrest of 13-Year-Old Honors Student
  • Oct, 31, 2019: Barrington Sues Student for Challenging Unlawful School Suspension; Seeks Award of Fees

View All Students' Rights Related News Releases »

Students' Rights Related Court Cases

2020: Johnson v. Pawtucket
Category: Active Case    Civil Rights    Criminal Justice    Discrimination    Racial/Ethnic Discrimination    Police Practices    Students' Rights    Youth Rights    

About this Case:
This is a legal claim for damages sent to the City of Pawtucket over a School Resource Officer’s (SRO) unlawful handcuffing and arrest of a 13-year-old African-American middle school honors student. The damages claim is a required legal prerequisite to the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the student.

Current Status:
Claim filed in January 2020.

Cooperating Attorney:
Shannah Kurland

Supporting Documents
2019: Barrington School Committee v. Student
Category: Active Case    Due Process    Free Speech    Right to Petition & Protest    Students' Rights    Youth Rights    

About this Case:
This is a lawsuit brought by the Barrington School Committee against the Rhode Island Department of Education and a middle school student who successfully challenged his three-day out-of-school suspension - twice.

Current Status:
Lawsuit dismissed in January 2020.

Cooperating Attorney:
Aubrey Lombardo

Supporting Documents

View All Students' Rights Court Cases »

Students' Rights Related Legislation

Sunscreen in Schools (H 7123) Held For Further Study
Category: 2020    Students' Rights    

Regulations promulgated by the Departments of Health and Education restrict students from self-administering over-the-counter medication, including important preventative care products such as sunscreen, on school campuses without “parental authorization.” Although we supported this legislation, introduced by Representative David Bennett, we pointed out the absurdity that a student who could bring and administer sunscreen under this bill still wouldn’t be able to utilize an ointment to treat a sunburn without this discretionary permission. We encouraged the committee to enact a more expansive piece of legislation to address this issue, such as H-7506, sponsored by Rep. Susan Donovan, which would allow older students the right to bring OTC medication to school.

Funding for Field Trips (H 7043, H 7069, S 2327) Passed the House, Held for Further Study in Senate
Category: 2020    Students' Rights    

When a decision from the former-Commissioner of Education, supported by the ACLU, came out last April and affirmed guidelines for equity in the administration of public school field trips, it provoked considerable and extensive confusion and public attention. Even before this year’s legislative session began, it seemed inevitable that legislation to address this topic would swiftly move through the General Assembly.

As predicted, two pieces of legislation quickly introduced in the House of Representatives attempted to address the former-Commissioner’s decision by statutorily allowing for parental contributions towards the funding of school field trips. However, what the former Commissioner’s decision appropriately noted is that in order to ensure accessibility and equity for all students regarding these formative educational experiences, no student or parent can be required to provide payment for these trips or be forced into the stigmatizing position of asking for a fee waiver for financial reasons. We offered several amendments to these two pieces of legislation, H 7043 and H 7069, to ensure the essence of the Commissioner’s ruling remains intact. The House amended their legislation to reflect our concerns, and we supported the amended version which passed on the House floor.

The Senate additionally introduced legislation concerning field trips which we supported; we did, however, urge amendments to clarify the strictly voluntary nature of any requested donations.