PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) – The City of Pawtucket spent $2.4 million in state and federal money on athletic fields, then gave a private Catholic school exclusive rights to use them, parents of public school students say in a constitutional complaint in Federal Court.
The parents say 900 children in public high schools and junior highs were denied use of the fields when the city gave exclusive rights to teams from St. Raphael Academy, a Catholic high school run by the Diocese of Providence.
Defendants include Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle and the directors of the Departments of Public Works and Parks and Recreation.
The city spent more than $2 million to convert an old steel plant into the new McKinnon/Alves Soccer Complex and to maintain it.
Parents say Parks and Recreation Superintendant William D. Mulholland denied public school athletic directors’ requests to use the fields and granted exclusive rights to sports teams from St. Raphael Academy.
The parents say this pattern has continued for 5 years. They say the city backpedaled in 2008 after being threatened with litigation, but at the beginning of this school year it reverted to its unconstitutional ways.
On behalf of their children, the parents seek declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction. They are represented by ACLU attorney Sandra Lanni of Warwick, R.I.