©2010 Brian S. Batterton, Attorney, Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute (LLRMI.COM) On September 8, 2010, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided Meadows v. Lake Travis Independent School Districti, which involved a lawsuit involving the mother of a student who was denied access to the school because of her refusal to comply with the schools visitor identification system. The facts of Meadows, taken from the case, are as follows:
Following an incident in which a sex offender gained access to a school in the District and exposed himself to a child, the District implemented Regulation FFF to provide greater safety for the students. Under Regulation FFF, every visitor is required to provide a state-issued photo ID as a condition of entering secure areas where students are present. Visitors scan their ID through the Raptor System, which takes a picture of the information on the front of the ID, but collects no other information. Raptor enables schools to monitor access to their premises and check visitors’ names and dates of birth to determine whether they are listed on the registered-sex-offender databases of any of the fifty states or the federal territories. Raptor has modern and secure encryption and storage procedures.
The event that precipitated the instant litigation occurred when Mrs. Meadows visited Bee Cave Elementary School (“the School”) in September 2006. The Meadowses’ children were students there at that time. Mrs. Meadows refused to allow the School either to scan her driver’s license or to permit the School to input her information manually. As a result, she was denied access to the areas of the School that she wished to visit and had to meet with her children’s teachers in a conference room in the main office area. Similar incidents occurred when Mrs. Meadows visited the school to attend a musical, a volleyball game, and the School’s annual Thanksgiving lunch.
The Meadowses brought suit in district court. The District moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted on all claims. The district court also taxed costs against the Meadowses, who timely filed a notice of appeal.ii
On appeal, the Meadowses first argue that Regulation FFF violated their Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights to direct their child’s education. While the court acknowledged that a parent has a constitutional right to direct their child’s education, they must show that unrestricted access to all areas of the school while students are present is a part of that right. The Meadowses were unable to provide case law to support their contention. Further, they were not denied the right to make fundamental decisions about their child’s education; rather, Mrs. Meadows was denied unrestricted access to the school while students were present.
Additionally, the court of appeals reasoned that, even if they assumed that the Meadowses did have a constitutional right to unrestricted access to their child’s school, there would still be no constitutional violation by the enforcement of Regulation FFF because it would pass the strict scrutiny analysis. This is because the school district has a compelling state interest in keeping sex offenders from entering the school. The court held that Regulation FFF is narrowly tailored to achieve its purpose and only requires the minimum amount of personal information necessary to achieve its purpose. Further, there were no workable alternatives. As such, the court of appeals held that the schools enforcement of Regulation FFF did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s substantive due process right to direct the child’s education.
Second, the court also held that the Meadowses did not show that the Regulation FFF violated their Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights and did not violate their First Amendment rights.
Third, the court held that requiring the personal information to enter the school did not constitute a violation of the Meadowses right to privacy because they do not have a right to privacy in their driver’s licenses. Additionally, the court noted that even if they did have a constitutional right to privacy in their driver’s license information, the school district had sufficient policies in effect to safeguard the privacy of the information.
Lastly, the Meadowes argued that enforcement of Regulation FFF was essentially a seizure and, as such, it violated their Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that, if it were a seizure, it would be a reasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
Therefore, since the Meadowses were unable to show that their constitutional rights had been violated, the court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for the defendants.
NOTE: Court holdings can vary significantly between jurisdictions. As such, it is advisable to seek the advice of a local prosecutor or legal advisor regarding questions on specific cases. This article is not intended to constitute legal advice on a specific case.
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Stay S.A.F.E. In School Violence Situations
i 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 18802 (5th Cir. Decided September 8, 2010 Unpub)
ii Id. at 2-3