Stories from the ACLU of Washington

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.
Published: 
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
We’re deeply disturbed by a video showing Seattle Police Officers kicking and yelling racial slurs at an individual of color who appeared to be offering no resistance. We recognize that the video is the subject of ongoing investigations, and it is, of course, important to protect the due process rights of the officers involved. But let’s be perfectly clear—using racial slurs or threatening to harm someone because of his race or ethnicity is never acceptable under any circumstances. Police officers have great power to be the enforcement mechanism of our laws. But let’s not forget—it is we as citizens and residents who delegate that power to them. Which is why it is extremely disturbing to see that power being abused by those in whom so much trust is placed.
Published: 
Friday, May 7, 2010
Check out this video of Alison Holcomb, ACLU-WA Drug Policy Director, debating the merits of the War on Drugs with renowned criminal justice Professor Mark Kleiman, WA Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail, King County Superior Court Judge Wesley Saint Clair, and King County Prosecutor Mark Larson.
Published: 
Friday, May 7, 2010
It’s designed to be easy to use, more accessible, and more informative. The technology we are using is called Drupal, and it’s not only cutting edge, it’s community-oriented and open source. Spend a few minutes poking around and kicking the tires, from the little links below each story to the big FREEDOM logo that we’ve placed front and center. And our thanks to ACLU members who helped us in the design of the site. We do a massive amount of work to defend the freedoms of everybody in Washington state, but we never get enough time to tell everything to everyone who wants to know. Thank goodness for the Internet! You can even leave a comment to let us know what you think – we know civil libertarians are lively, thoughtful people.

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