Background Checks for School Visitors Upheld

By Mark Walsh — September 09, 2010 1 min read
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A federal appeals court has upheld a Texas school district’s policy requiring school visitors to submit identification for a background check to gain access to secure areas such as hallways and classrooms.

The Lake Travis Independent School District adopted the policy after a sex offender gained access to one of its schools and exposed himself to a child. The policy requires visitors to check in at the school office and submit a driver’s license or state ID card. School staff members then use a private vendor’s system that checks the ID information against all U.S. sex-offender databases.

A lawsuit filed by parents Larry and Yvonne Meadows claimed that the policy interfered with their Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and their 14th Amendment substantative-due-process right to direct the upbringing of their children. After a run-in with administrators, the mother had refused to submit her identification to school officials and had to meet with her son’s teachers in a conference room.

A federal district judge upheld the policy last year, which I reported on in the blog here.

In a Sept. 8 decision in Meadows v. Lake Travis Independent School District, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, unanimously upheld the policy.

“We readily acknowledge that parents do have a constitutional right to direct their children’s education, but the Meadows’ have put forth no case law for the proposition that this right extends so far as to include the unfettered right of a parent to visit all areas of a school campus while students are present,” the court said.

Even if the parents’ right to direct their children’s education did extend to visiting all areas of a school, the district’s background-check policy would withstand strict scrutiny because the district has a compelling interest in determining whether school visitors are sex offenders and the background checks are narrowly tailored, the court said.

(Hat Tip to NSBA’s Legal Clips for the 5th Circuit decision.)

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.