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LWV Joins Lawsuit Supporting Student Plaintiffs’ Right to Civic Education

Rhode Island students demand right to education preparing them to engage in civic society

BOSTON — Today, the League of Women Voters of the United States and League of Women Voters of Rhode Island filed an amicus brief in the case of Cook v. Raimondo, in which twelve student plaintiffs are suing the state of Rhode Island to demand a right to an education adequate to prepare students to engage in civic society. 

Fourteen Rhode Island public school students and their families are filing to ensure that all students have a meaningful opportunity to obtain an education to prepare them to be capable citizens and determine whether that is a guaranteed right under the U.S. Constitution. The case was previously dismissed by the U.S. District Court judge and has now been appealed to the First Circuit. 

“It is the responsibility of our legislators and education departments to ensure that our next generations of citizens understand the workings of our country’s government and its history,” said Jane Koster, president of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island. “Mandating civic education in all schools at all levels from a student’s early learning through high school graduation is vitally important to fulfill our obligation as a country to secure our democracy.” 

The plaintiffs argue that, in the Constitution, all students have the right to an education that prepares them to participate effectively in a democracy. The plaintiffs assert that the state of Rhode Island is failing to provide tens of thousands of students with the necessary basic education and civic participation skills. An ultimate decision on behalf of the Plaintiffs in this case would establish a constitutional right to education for students throughout the United States. 

“As an organization founded upon the mission of civic education, the League of Women Voters supports the students in Cook v. Raimondo, which demands the state of Rhode Island acknowledge its constitutional duty to provide an educational system that includes an essential understanding of our democratic system as a core component,” said Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Providing our young people with quality civic education is paramount to building a strong republic. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and they have a right to an adequate education that prepares them to take full ownership in our democracy.” 

The League of Women Voters is joined in this case by ACLU Rhode Island and represented by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.  

"As an organization that, like the League, has long worked to inform the public about their voting rights, the ACLU is hopeful that the court will recognize a constitutional underpinning to ensuring that our youth are provided an education that properly prepares them to exercise this fundamental right," said Steven Brown, executive director of ACLU of Rhode Island.

“Pillsbury is honored to represent the National League of Women Voters, the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, and the ACLU of Rhode Island in an important case to ensure that all students receive an education adequate to prepare them to be capable citizens in our democracy,” said Pillsbury’s Jeffrey Metzler. “Our brief argues that the failure to provide students with a basic civics education impinges upon their right to vote and we implore the Court to declare that all students have a fundamental right under the United States Constitution to an education adequate to prepare them to function productively as civic participants capable of meaningfully exercising their right to vote.” 

The case is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals of the First Circuit and is expected to be decided in Spring 2021. 

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PRESS CONTACT: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]