In the runup to the this week's legislative deadline (policy bills need to make it out of committees by Friday in the state senate), the Republicans unilaterally pushed a bill through the law and justice comittee today that jeopardizes the civil rights of students accordig to the ACLU.

"This is the 'policization' of our schools," ACLU lobbyist Shankar Narayan said coining a term he likened to militarization.

The bill, sponsored by GOP Sens. Steve O'Ban (R-28, University Place) and Pam Roach (R-31, Auburn), would allow law enforcement officers to conduct searches of students without first obtaining a warrant.

Image courtesy Shutterstock

Some background: Teachers and school administration are allowed, with the imprimatur of a U.S. Supreme Court 4th Amendment exception, to search students and their lockers if staff has a "reasonable suspcion," for example, that they'll discover drugs or weapons. However, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the SCOTUS exemption does not extend to non-school officials such as cops. The Court acknowledged that other states have extended the exemption, but simultaneously noted that those decisions were based on the U.S. Constitution's 4th Amendment, explaining that Washington's constitution has a stronger privacy provision; check out Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington's constitution. Definitive stuff: "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law."

Proponents of the bill, such as the Washinton Association of Sherrifs and Police Cheifs, argued during testimony that it makes no sense that a janitor can search a student's locker, but a law enforcement officer cannot.

Narayan's rejoinder: "If a janitor can do it, then a janitor should do it." Narayan's larger point: "Students don't surrender their constitutional rights at the school house gate." 

All three Democrats on the law and justice committee, Seattle-area Sens. Adam Kline (D-37, Southeast Seattle) and Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill), along with Jeanie Darneille (D-27, Tacoma), voted against the bill while all four Republicans, Chair Sen. Mike Padden (R-4, Spokane Valley) bill sponsor Sen. O'Ban, Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-39, Monroe), and Sen. Roach voted for it in a partisan disagreement.

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