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Supreme Court to take up truancy lawsuit

December 15, 2011

The state’s highest court has agreed to decide whether a lawsuit over Rhode Island’s truancy court program can proceed.

Plaintiffs have accused the truancy court of operating in near-secrecy and imposing overly harsh, onerous punishments. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of students and parents who came in contact with the program.

Defendants, including the chief justice of Rhode Island’s Family Court and several magistrates, have questioned whether the Superior Court has jurisdiction over the Family Court. A superior court judge ruled against their request for dismissal, and that is what defendants went on to appeal to the State Supreme Court.

ACLU Rhode Island Director Steve Brown says he is glad the high court has agreed to take the case, which has been dragging on for more than a year. Five school districts have agreed to halt participation in the truancy program to settle the lawsuit, but Providence and four other school districts continue to participate.

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