PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A town accused of detaining a third-grader for several hours after another child told adults she had chemicals in her backpack denied the allegations Monday in its first response to a lawsuit filed by her family.
The lawyer for the town of Tiverton, Marc DeSisto, did not explain in his filing what happened during the October 2014 incident or offer an alternate version of events. He would not comment further when reached by phone.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island sued in U.S. District Court in Providence last month on behalf of the girl and her parents.
The family's lawyer has said the child's constitutional rights were violated when she was taken off a school bus, searched, put in the back of a police cruiser, taken alone to the police department and questioned, even though it was clear that she was the victim of a false accusation.
The lawsuit says another third-grader had falsely reported to adults that the girl and her friend had chemicals in their backpacks. Police found no dangerous chemicals when they searched the child or her friend.
The school district made automated calls that evening to all elementary school parents falsely stating that two students claimed to have chemicals and threatened to set a school bus on fire, according to the lawsuit.
The family has asked that the school and police departments adopt rules that would prevent the same thing from happening to another child. They are also seeking punitive and compensatory damages and legal costs.