Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union


Students' Rights

Protecting the rights of students and young people is key becasue 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 practiced and protected in that setting.


We have a few pamphlets available for parents and students:

Know Your Rights: School Discipline

(Read the text only of this booklet.)

Know Your Rights: Students and Technology

(Read the text only of this pamphlet.)

Know Your Rights in Truancy Court
(Read the text only of this pamphlet.)

Truancy Courts

In March, 2010, the ACLU filed 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. Read more.

Have you had an experience with the Rhode Island Truancy Court Program?  You can use this online form to submit your story to the ACLU legal team:

Court Cases

Take a look at some of our lawsuits to protect students' rights.

A 2009 RI ACLU publication, Inside the School House Gate: The Rhode Island ACLU and Students' Rights in School, examines 27 students' rights cases that the Affiliate has encountered since 1990. (Note: This is a large file and may take several minutes to download.)


In 2011, the Affiliate testified on numerous bills pertaining to students' rights, including bills related to texting and bullying.

In the 2009 session the Affiliate testifed against school uniforms and oppposed goverment oversight of private youth sports organizations. We passed a bill to protect students from electronic montitoring with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

Students' Rights in the News

March 18, 2013 - ACLU Issues Statement on Disciplining of Students Based on Their Tweets

March 11, 2013 - RI ACLU Report Finds Prevalent Internet Censorship in Public Schools

February 26, 2013 - 4,200 Students in Jeopardy of Not Graduating from High School Due to High Stakes Test: Group Encourages Parents to Take Action by Urging Legislators to Support Bill to Eliminate High Stakes Testing

February 7, 2013 - The RI ACLU testified yesterday before the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare in opposition to a bill allowing school districts to charge students for participating in extracurricular activities. The ACLU agrees with the the R.I. Commissioner of Education, who has consistently found "pay-to-play" to infringe upon the guarentee of a free public education, even when fee waivers are made available. Read our written testimony for more information.

December 12, 2012 - State Supreme Court Rules Truancy Lawsuit Moot While Acknowledging Constitutional Rights of Families; ACLU to Consider Next Steps

September 18, 2012 - ACLU Issues Statement in Response to Father-Daughter Dance Controversy

May 23, 2012 - ACLU Calls Barrington Non-Resident Student Tuition Rate Proposal Illegal

May 15, 2012 - Groups Denounce Proposed "Zero Tolerance" Rules for Students

April 17, 2011 - ACLU Sues Over Latest Harassment of URI Students by Narragansett Officials

January 6, 2011 - Appeals Court Upholds Narragansett "Orange Sticker" Ordinance; ACLU Plans Further Action

December 22, 2010 - Settlement Reached in Special Education Complaint Against Pawtucket School District

August 18, 2010 - RI ACLU Challenges Woonsocket School Uniform Policy

June 18, 2010 - ACLU Seeks Change in Unconstitutional Coventry School Dress Code Used to Ban a Patriotic Hat

May 13, 2010 - Woonsocket Education Department Agrees To Stop Sending Children To Unlawfully Operated Rhode Island Truancy Courts

March 29, 2010 - ACLU Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Practices of Rhode Island Truancy Courts

February 18, 2010 - ACLU Appeals Ruling on Narragansett “Orange Sticker” Ordinance

January 26, 2010 - ACLU Files Brief In Support Of Central Falls Soccer Students Searched By Coventry Police

January 22, 2010 - Judge Upholds Narragansett “Orange Sticker” Ordinance

December 21, 2009 - RI ACLU Challenges North Smithfield “Pay to Play” Policy

September 30, 2009 - Expanded Open Meetings Lawsuit Filed Against Barrington School Committee

August 19, 2009 - ACLU Files Brief Supporting Child Welfare Suit Against DCYF

August 14, 2009 - Open Meetings Lawsuit Filed Against Barrington School Committee Over Breathalyzer Test Discussion; Fines Sought

July 8, 2009 -- ACLU Brief Urges Court to Strike Down Narragansett “Orange Sticker” Policy

May 23, 2008 -- ACLU Sues Narragansett Over "Orange Sticker" Policy

September 25, 2007 -- ACLU Settles Suit Against Rhode Island College for Censoring Reproductive Rights Sign Display

May 7, 2007 -- Groups Call On Public Schools to Reject "Dangerous" Sex Education Program

April 30, 2007 -- ACLU Brief Challenges Legality of Truancy Courts

February 6, 2007 -- ACLU Calls Rhode Island College Position That It Is Not Subject to the Constitution "Shocking"

January 19, 2007 -- Commissioner of Education Overturns Ban of Student Yearbook Photo

December 18, 2006 -- ACLU Says Department of Education Failed to Adequately Review Harmful Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Curriculum

December 12, 2006 --  ACLU Files Suit Challenging Ban of Student's Yearbook Photo

December 4, 2006 -- ACLU Files Free Speech Suit Against Rhode Island College for Censoring Reproductive Rights Sign Display

March 22, 2006 -- RI ACLU Hails Department of Education Action to Halt Use of Questionable “Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage” Curriculum in Public Schools

February 2, 2006 -- ACLU Responds to Secret Service Investigation of Student Essay

October 5, 2005 -- ACLU Files Open Record Lawsuit Against Foster-Glocester School District

August 31, 2005 -- Students' Rights to Withhold Information from Military Recruiters Not Being Adequately Protected, ACLU Survey Finds

March 23, 2005 -- Under Threat of ACLU Lawsuit, Providence School Reinstates Student Suspended For Photographing Principal

September 8, 2004 -- ACLU Calls on Rhode Island College to Immediately Revise "Hate Speech" Policies

May 27, 2004 -- ACLU Calls on URI to Halt Censorship of Professor's Website

February 27, 2004 -- ACLU Defends Roger Williams University College Republicans From Possible Charter Revocation Over Scholarship Controversy

128 Dorrance Street Suite 220    Providence, RI 02903  dot  Phone (401) 831-7171       Fax (401) 831-7175     riaclu@riaclu.org

Thiswww.riaclu.org is the website of the Rhode Island Affiliate, ACLU and the ACLU Foundation of Rhode Island. 

Learn more about the distinction between these two components of the RI ACLU.