Below is a statement issued today by the ACLU of Rhode Island on allegations that excessive punishment has been imposed on students who last month protested Warwick school district educational policies:

“The ACLU of Rhode Island has no independent information about the typical practices of Warwick school officials in punishing students for cutting class. But if, as some pupils and teachers have alleged, the three-hour detention imposed on students for walking out of school to protest school district special education practices is greater than the punishment normally given students for cutting class, serious First Amendment concerns are presented. Students cannot be given harsher punishment for missing a class in order to engage in a political protest than would be given if they were caught hanging out across the street at a McDonald’s.

“In order to address these allegations, the school district’s practices regarding punishment for cutting class should be made public so that any concerns about unfair treatment can be rebutted. However, if these students have indeed been the recipients of harsher punishment, the discipline should be removed from their school records. Otherwise, the school district will be giving students a very wrong lesson about the meaning of the First Amendment.”