Stories from the ACLU of Washington

Published: 
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Yesterday, we got word that Seattle’s aggressive panhandling ordinance has officially died—the city council was unable to overturn Mayor McGinn’s veto. The action came after pressure from the ACLU of Washington, Real Change News, and various other community organizations. The groups opposed the proposed law as an unnecessary measure – Seattle already has a law against “aggressive panhandling” – that scapegoated homeless people rather than addressing real problems of public.  If enforced, the measure likely would lead to more poor people being thrown into the criminal justice system after they are unable to pay fines.
Published: 
Monday, May 24, 2010
As reported by the Peninsula Gateway, recently “drug-sniffing dogs from multiple agencies visited Gig Harbor High School” to sniff out any illicit drugs. What exactly did the dogs find? Upon searching a student’s car, “a trace amount of marijuana shake was found in the cup holders and center console area, but no quantity was located for destruction or booking, according to the Gig Harbor Police Department.” “Trace amounts,” in one car, that’s it. So was treating every student at the school like a criminal suspect worth it?
Published: 
Friday, May 21, 2010
The right to obtain government documents is an important right for all people in Washington. It helps the public know what the government is doing and hold government agencies and officials accountable for their actions.
Published: 
Friday, May 21, 2010
The Seattle Channel facilitated an interactive discussion last week focusing on marijuana policy in Seattle.  It included live and online audience participation.  ACLU of Washington Drug Policy Director Alison Holcomb was included on a panel of experts for the event.  Click through to see the video.
Published: 
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The ACLU-WA is busy protecting your civil liberties and civil rights in the courts, the legislature, and city and county halls – and we’re in the community. We have over 25,000 members across the state, including nine county chapters and eight student clubs. Our volunteer-powered chapters and clubs provide a local ACLU-WA presence in counties outside of the Seattle metropolitan area and in schools across the state. Chapters and clubs serve as “the eyes and ears” of the ACLU throughout Washington. ACLU-WA chapters and clubs play a key role in promoting liberties through activism and public education. For example, our Pierce County Chapter was a pivotal player in establishing the City of Tacoma’s Citizen Review Panel (CRP), a policy-oriented board created to ensure transparency and accountability in the Tacoma Police Department. On June 2, the chapter will host a public forum with panel members of the CRP where the community can learn about CRP’s mission and role in the community. Our Whatcom County Chapter is working on a campaign to replace the death penalty with lifetime incarceration. And our ACLU-WA Gonzaga Law Club hosts lively debates on important civil liberties issues, like equality for LGBT families. Want to be an ACLU activist? Find out if there is a chapter in your county or club at your school. And check the Events section of our website for information about any activities in your community.
Published: 
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
In February 2008, without notice and despite a city council budget restriction to the contrary, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels pulled a political end-around to have police surveillance cameras installed in Cal Anderson Park. At the time, the action was defended with the explanation that this was just a pilot program that would allow the the city to evaluate the effectiveness of the cameras. The forced pilot project ended in late January of this year, but as of April, the cameras were still recording 24 hours a day, unbeknown to the police or city council.
Published: 
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Arizona's new law creates a mini-police state where people can be asked to show their papers to law enforcement simply because they look or sound "foreign." We must reject any efforts to enact such measures in Washington and make sure that what happens in Arizona stops in Arizona.
Published: 
Monday, May 17, 2010
Last Thursday, the AP ran a ground-breaking piece of investigative journalism. It spelled out how U.S. taxpayers have financed a $1 trillion "War on Drugs" that, 40 years after its launch, has failed to meet any of its declared goals. That's putting it mildly.
Published: 
Friday, May 14, 2010
This session the Washington Legislature passed a landmark civil rights law (HB 3026). The measure explicitly prohibits discrimination based on race, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, religion, disability, national origin, veteran or military status, and disability in public schools – sex discrimination was previously banned. And it gives the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) the tools to enforce compliance with these prohibitions against discrimination. This is an important step forward. But it's not time to breathe a sigh of relief yet. There is more work to ensure this law does what it is supposed to do. OSPI is hosting town halls across the state to get community members’ input to inform the creation of the Washington State Code (WAC) that will implement the new law.
Published: 
Thursday, May 13, 2010
While everyone seems to agree that parental involvement in schools is critical, the ACLU just filed an amicus brief in a case illustrating some of the obstacles that can arise when parents try to get involved. Yesterday, Division One of the Washington state Court of Appeals accepted the ACLU of Washington’s amicus brief in the case of State v. Green. This was a case where the mother of an elementary school student was indefinitely banned from school grounds, or “trespassed,” from her son’s elementary school in the Kent School District after she repeatedly asked pointed questions about curriculum, district policies, textbooks, and lesson plans at a “Curriculum Night” event held for parents. The District denied her request for a hearing to challenge the trespass order, and she ended up being cited and criminally prosecuted for going back to the school twice – once to try to attend a parent-teacher conference and a book fair, and once to pick up her son from a Science Fair. No one questions schools’ authority to regulate access to school grounds in order to ensure a safe and productive educational environment. The ACLU’s brief in this case explains why a school cannot simply banish a parent from her child’s school indefinitely without any opportunity for a hearing to challenge the allegation that was causing a disruption. For good reason, our state legislature passed a law this year directing that the Center for Improvement of Student Learning identify and highlight successful models and practices of parent involvement so that successful schools can be recognized. The Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman also provides resources for families and school districts who want to work on developing successful partnerships and resolving conflicts. And students and families that want to advocate for improvements in their own District’s policies and practices regarding family involvement can find helpful tips in the ACLU of Washington’s Parents’ Guide to School Board Advocacy, also available in Spanish. The brief was written by ACLU of Washington’s cooperating attorney, Jamal Whitehead, formerly at Garvey, Schubert & Barer with ACLU Staff Attorneys Nancy Talner and Rose Spidell.

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