Feedback: ACLU guards student rights
July 3, 2008 · Updated 10:04 PM
In regard to Carol Tingleys letter to the editor (School ignores student rights, April 21).
I have this to say: Ms. Tingley, you as a parent have the power. Too often school administrators and officials try to take our parental rights away along with those of our children. If you truly believe that your child is being forced to sign things against his or her will, and punished when this is refused or that your childs freedom of speech is being censored, please, contact the ACLU of Washington State (American Civil Liberties Union). The ACLU is a great defender and supporter of our childrens rights in school and further, when it comes to the police.
All parents need to be aware that in school their children have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures as well. Washington state law says that school lockers are school property and therefore can be searched, however, a teacher, school official or a police officer called to the school must have a very reasonable suspicion to search a backpack, pockets, purse, etc.
Reasonable suspicion might include a teacher or other adult witnessing a child in possession of something that appears to be illegal or two students passing something that appears to be illegal to one another. Further, once a police officer enters a school to begin interviewing a child, the child must be read his or her rights, including that of the choice to remain silent. Children under the age of 12 are legally unable to waive some of these rights unless joined in this waiver by a parent or an adult who is their guardian. In other words, a parent needs to be present if a child is asked to sign on the dotted line.
The ACLU will be able to answer any questions you may have about your child being forced to sign an admission or confession against their will. Same goes for your belief that children are being censored. You can reach the ACLU at their website or by calling 206-624-2184. Im sure the ACLU will be glad to speak to the principal at North Whidbey Middle School as well.
School staff certainly need to understand that entering the hallowed halls of school does not strip a child of their rights as individuals and human beings. Frankly, I am more than hesitant to vote yes on the upcoming school bond in Coupeville when my children have encountered the same you have no rights at school problems here. Its wonderful and one thing to have a shiny new school and existing schools updated, but what matters more is what goes on and how they are treated in the buildings.
Lastly a word about the new Juvenile Detention Center being built in Coupeville which is said to be costing a staggering $5.1 million dollars: Wouldnt it have been better to spend a third of that money on a youth center centrally located on the island instead? Ignore their needs, strip their rights, treat them like second class citizens, lock them up and you wonder why so many of them grow up angry?