Lawsuit filed over RI graduation requirements

Several groups including the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Rhode Island Board of Education on Wednesday, saying the board failed to consider their petition to bar a standardized test as a graduation requirement.

The groups sent a petition to the board June 21 saying they wanted the test removed as a requirement for graduation and wanted the board to open a process to consider the change. Those suing include the Rhode Island Disability Law Center, groups that represent students, teachers and others, as well as some individuals. They say a high-stakes test is not an appropriate requirement for many students to graduate and that 4,000 students are at risk of not graduating this spring based on their scores.

The lawsuit says the board was required to consider the petition within 30 days and failed to do so. Board Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso sent the groups a letter denying their request, but saying the board planned to discuss the testing standard at an August retreat. The lawsuit says the entire board is required to consider it under state law and never did.

"The response has to be voted on by the whole board in a meeting," said Elizabeth Wiens, a volunteer ACLU attorney who filed the lawsuit.

It is the board's policy not to comment on pending litigation, said spokesman Mike Trainor.

Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU, said thousands of students are facing a senior year filled with stress and uncertainty because the board is avoiding its obligation under state law to take up the issue.

"The lives of all these students are in limbo," he said.