ACLU Settles Lawsuit With Tiverton Over 3rd Grader Searched & Arrested Without Cause

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


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The ACLU of Rhode Island announced the settlement of a federal lawsuit against Tiverton police and school officials after a third-grade girl was searched and arrested without cause. 

Under the settlement, Tiverton has agreed to pay $40,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to the family, and also adopted a formal protocol to deal with any similar incidents in the future.

“I am very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement with the Town. The enacted protocols will provide children and their families with necessary protections against unreasonable and unwarranted searches and seizures, while also ensuring that the police department will still be able to perform its duties to insure the safety of the town’s young residents,” said ACLU attorney Amato DeLuca. 

The protocol requires police to immediately inform and involve school officials when an officer wants to remove an elementary school student from a school bus. The policy also bars, absent a likelihood of imminent harm, any police or school official interrogation of the children until their parents are present.


“The ACLU is hopeful that this new protocol will prevent any other student from going through what this child endured. This case is a concrete reminder that over-policing of our schools and our students must stop,” said ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown. 

The Incident 

The suit came from an incident in 2014 when a student falsely told a school bus attendant that the girl and another student had “chemicals” in their backpacks. The bus was stopped and Tiverton Police officers and school officials were called to the scene. 

Police removed the two 8-year-old girls from the bus, and upon searching their bags, found no evidence of chemicals or anything else suspicious. 

Despite not having any grounds to believe the two children had done anything wrong, the police still took them to the police station before contacting their parents and accused them of not telling the truth. 

That night, the school robocalled all elementary school parents, wrongly informing them that two students had claimed to have chemicals and made threats to set a school bus on fire. 

No further action was taken against the accused students, while the girl who made the false accusations was disciplined.


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