The American Civil Liberties Union in Rhode Island has sued Tiverton police and school officials for detaining and questioning an eight-year-old girl, allegedly without cause. The ACLU claims the student's constitutional rights were violated after she was falsely accused of bringing chemicals on a school bus in 2014.
According to ACLU attorneys, the incident began when one student claimed that two other girls were carrying chemicals in their backpacks. Police and school officials were notified and searched the students' bags, but no chemicals were found.
Despite this, the lawsuit alleges that Tiverton police took the girls to the police station before contacting their parents and without the presence of any school official. When the parents did arrive, the ACLU claims the students faced several hours of questioning.
“It is unfortunate that we have been reduced to arresting without cause third grade children in the name of public safety," said ACLU atttorney Amato DeLuca, who is representing the parents of one of the girls in the lawsuit.
The complaint accuses the town of failing to provide adequate training for police and school employees and claims the Tiverton School Department misinformed parents about what happened in a robo-call.
“Whether it is a Texas high school student getting arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school or a Tiverton third-grader being arrested and interrogated by police on the basis of completely unsubstantiated accusations, the rush to violate students’ rights in the name of ‘safety’ has to stop," said ACLU of RI Executive Director Steve Brown in a written statement.
Steve Robinson, an attorney for the Tiverton School Department, said he is investigating the allegations.
Tiverton Police Chief Thomas Blakey said he is familiar with the incident but is not yet prepared to comment on the lawsuit. Both Blakey and Robinson said they have yet to receive the ACLU's complaint.