August 1, 2018

The ACLU of Rhode Island has today filed a lawsuit against the Achievement First Mayoral Academy in Providence for violating the state’s open records law. The lawsuit, filed in R.I. Superior Court by ACLU volunteer attorney Annie Goldberg, charges that the school failed to respond to requests from the ACLU for a copy of its policies pertaining to the rights and protections afforded transgender students.

In April, the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) adopted regulations requiring all local education agencies, including charter schools, to have in place by July 1st comprehensive policies to protect the rights of transgender students. In response, the ACLU first filed Access to Public Records (APRA) requests with every public school district in the state to get a copy of their policies, and found that the vast majority had adopted ones in compliance with the RIDE requirement. On June 1st, the ACLU sent a similar APRA request to every public charter school that is not under the jurisdiction of a school district. After being sent the request and, in some instances, a follow-up letter a few weeks later, all but Achievement First responded with copies of their policies.

Under APRA, the schools had ten business days to respond to the ACLU’s request. The lawsuit notes that even if the school had not yet adopted a transgender policy and had no documents to share, APRA required a response to that effect. The suit seeks a court order requiring Achievement First to turn over any relevant records it has, as well as the imposition of fines and an award of attorneys’ fees pursuant to the open records statute.

The ACLU actively supported RIDE’s adoption of the transgender policy and has been working to ensure that all schools comply with the mandate. It remains unknown whether Achievement First is in violation of not only of APRA, but of the RIDE regulations as well.

Volunteer attorney Goldberg said today: “We are very disappointed by the school’s failure to respond to our request for records. RIDE mandates all schools to have policies in place to protect trans students, and the law requires these policies be made publicly available.”

The full text of the lawsuit is available here.

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