Case Docket

A ROUNDUP OF OUR RECENT LEGAL WORK

Preventing Prison Rape

ACLU-DE prevailed on a motion to compel the Department of Correction to comply with the September 2011 court order requiring them to make substantial changes in the operation of the women’s prison to make rape and other sexual abuse of inmates less likely. Our prodding and a second order by the District Court Judge resulted in DOC taking action that has brought it into substantial compliance with the original order.

Work Release Alcohol TestingBreathalyzer Test

An eight month campaign under the state Freedom of Information Act resulted in DOC’s disclosure of records showing it had failed for years to calibrate the sensors used in determining whether Sussex County inmates on work release had violated probation by drinking alcoholic beverages. The state is currently determining the extent to which violation of probation convictions were based on readings from the un-calibrated sensors, and how to avoid problems going forward.

Cell Front Psychiatric Visits

We have advised the prison’s mental health provider that, contrary to its understanding, DOC does not require it to conduct mental health consultations at cell doors, where they can be overheard by guards and other inmates. The advice was based on DOC’s written statement that it will provide privacy for the consultations whenever requested by the mental health provider.

Religious Headwear in Court

After receiving our complaint on behalf of a woman prevented by a Justice of the Peace Court security officer from entering the court because she refused to remove the head covering she wore for religious reasons, the Chief Magistrate agreed to take remedial action so that a similar violation of the Constitution (and court policy) does not occur again.

Religious Service on Beach Sunrise Service

Responding to a newspaper article reporting that Rehoboth Beach had denied a church’s request to use the beach for a sunrise service, although the service would not violate the ordinances regulating beach use, we urged Rehoboth’s attorney to advise the city to let the service go forward. It did.

Public School Enrollment Policy

We provided the Enrollment Preference Task Force created by HB 90 with a legal analysis that explains why many of the questions asked on vo-tech, charter and magnet school admission applications—which request information that should be irrelevant to a student’s application, and are conducive to discrimination against disadvantaged students—violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Girls’ Soccer

A DOE hearing examiner rejected the claim by an ACLU-DE client that the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association is violating Title IX by making high school girls’ soccer a spring sport, thereby making it more difficult for girls to obtain college scholarships for soccer. We have appealed that decision.

Public School Expulsion Policy

In October 2013, DOE published proposed uniform definitions for student conduct that can result in alternative placement or expulsion. The definitions accommodated about half of our numerous criticisms of DOE’s August 2012 draft of the definitions. We submitted a new critique addressing the remaining problems created by the definitions. DOE has not yet responded.

Sartorial Free Speech Rights of Gov. Employees

At the request of Delaware AFSCME, we explained to the City of Wilmington Law Department that it must direct a departmental manager to cease prohibiting employees from wearing traditional African-style garb to work. At last word, the law department had advised the manager that employees could wear that clothing on casual Fridays, and it was researching what had to be allowed during the rest of the week.

Workplace BullyingWorkplace Bullying

An ACLU-DE representative has been appointed to serve on the task force created under a Senate Concurrent Resolution to address workplace bullying. Our role is to guard against possible cures for workplace bullying that might violate the right of free speech.

Public Meetings

The petition we filed on behalf of the Sierra Club, seeking a ruling that DNREC had violated Delaware’s Open Meetings law when it held a public hearing on a refinery license application in a venue too small for the expected number of attendees, was denied. The Department of Justice ruled that DNREC is exempt from the public meetings provisions of that law because it is a public body “having only one member”—the Secretary.

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