RI ACLU Sues Achievement First Mayoral Academy Over Transgender Policy - UPDATED
Thursday, August 02, 2018
Rhode Island ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Achievement First Mayoral Academy in Providence for failing to provide records on its policy governing transgender students.
“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,” said volunteer attorney Annie Goldberg.
The lawsuit comes approximately four months after the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) adopted a transgender policy in which all schools are supposed to comply.
In April, RIDE adopted regulations requiring all local education agencies, including charter schools, to have in place by July 1 comprehensive policies to protect the rights of transgender students.
In response, the ACLU 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 1, 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.
Achievement First Responds
Achievement First sent a statement on behalf of Elizabeth Winangun, AF's Director of External Relations for Rhode Island:
“Our teams responsible for processing public record requests have no record of this request from the ACLU. If we were aware of this request, we would have absolutely complied. We have a policy regarding transgender students, which we are sending to the ACLU after learning of this issue today. We have also been a part of multiple briefs submitted to the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts which support transgender student rights, and support school districts establishing strong policies to protect transgender students. In these briefs, we have argued on the same side as the ACLU. We are proud that Achievement First Rhode Island is committed to LGBTQ+ inclusivity, including not only participation in National Day of Silence, National Coming Out Day, and our commitment to gender-neutral bathrooms and gender-neutral dress codes, but also through professional development sessions developed based on materials provided by the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Initiative.”
· We learned about the request through the press release sent out today.
· The ACLU claims the communication was sent to a principal who is no longer with Achievement First, and one of the dates on which they’re claiming to have sent information was after she had transitioned out of the school.
· Our policy is in line with that of Providence Public Schools and will be available to students and families when we start school in mid-August.
Updated Tuesday 2:51 P.M.
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