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

  • Oct, 16, 2018: Remedial Action Taken to Help Students With Disabilities Affected by Bus Strike
  • Oct, 10, 2018: Series of Legal Actions Taken on Behalf of Students with Disabilities Affected by Bus Strike
  • Oct, 03, 2018: ACLU Calls Providence School District Bus Strike Response “Inadequate” and Inequitable

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Students' Rights Related Court Cases

2018: J.Y. v. Providence School Department
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Rights of the Disabled    Students' Rights    Youth Rights    

About This Case:
J.Y. v. Providence School Department is one of three separate administrative legal actions taken with the RI Department of Education on behalf of students with disabilities who are caught up in the Providence school bus strike. All three complaints allege that the failure of the school district to honor its responsibility under the students’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to provide transportation to and from school violates federal and state laws protecting the students’ rights.

The three legal steps taken today by the groups, all filed with RIDE, are:

1) Due Process Petition.
Filed by ACLU volunteer attorney Christine Marinello on behalf of twelve-year old Jeremy Young, who has “complex medical, mobility and academic needs and requires the use of a wheelchair at all times.”

2) Demand Letter.
A potential precursor to filing a federal court lawsuit, this letter is on behalf of students with disabilities who live and go to school outside Providence, but who have been affected because their buses originate in Providence and are therefore not running.

3) Class Administrative Complaint.
Filed by Rhode Island Legal Services attorney Veronika Kot and ACLU attorney Ellen Saideman this complaint is on behalf of four named families representing all students with disabilities whose education plans for transportation are being disregarded during the strike.

Current Status:
Following a conference call before a Rhode Island Department of Education hearing officer, many of the issues have been addressed.  As yet unresolved is whether parents who were forced to take time off from work to transport their children to school will be reimbursed for their time in transporting their children or lost wages.

Christine Marinello, Veronika Kot, Ellen Saideman

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

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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.