ACLU files suit on behalf of mother banned from volunteering

Providence, R.I. – The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a recovering heroin addict who was denied permission to volunteer at her six-year-old daughter's school because of two drug possession convictions.

The ACLU says the Cranston School Department violated the state constitution, the Rhode Islanders with Disabilities Act and civil rights laws when it told Jessica Gianfrocco she couldn't volunteer at her daughter's elementary school because of a pair of drug convictions that occurred before the girl was born.

Gianfrocco says she's been clean and sober for six years and represents no threat to her or anyone else's child.

"I just really want to be active in her life," she said. " I want to give her every opportunity and the volunteering means she'll do better later on."

Her attorney, Carly Iafrate, says drug addiction is a protected disability under both the state and federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"This is really about a mother's basic desire to participate in her child's education," Iafrate says. "Something that many of us who are parents take for granted."

The ACLU says the Cranston volunteer policy sets a higher standard for parents than for teachers or vendors.

Cranston School Committee Chair Michael Trafficante says teachers have to undergo the same background check as parent volunteers. He says the policy is meant to promote the safety of children in Cranston schools.