School Climate & Safety

School Police Ticket Students for Foul Language in Kansas District

By Evie Blad — January 22, 2014 1 min read
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School resource officers in the Maize, Kan., school district issue citations that carry fines of up to $50 for students who use profane or foul language that causes “a substantial disruption at school,” a district spokesperson told the Student Press Law Center.

Students, who first reported the sanctions in Play, a Maize High School publication (good job, students!), have raised questions about whether the actions violate their free-speech rights and whether it is the role of school police to discipline them for such behavior. Four students received the citations in the fall semester, the spokesperson told the Student Press Law Center.

It is unclear whether the tickets are legal citations or a form of school discipline. They are issued by fully commissioned Kansas police officers. Watkins said Superintendent Doug Powers called the citations an 'administrative ticket.' [The district spokesperson] called them 'campus citations.' It's also unclear what the consequences of failing to pay the $50 would be."

Critics of the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” have said school police should not be involved in routine disciplinary actions. And The National Association of School Resource Officers, the nation’s largest organization of school-based police officers, recently issued a statement that it agrees.

A Kansas statute highlighted by the Student Press Law Center says that:

In addition to enforcement of state law, county resolutions and city ordinances, campus police officers shall enforce rules and regulations and rules and policies of the board of trustees or school board, whether or not violation thereof constitutes a criminal offense."

It’s unclear how officers determine the size of the fine associated with the tickets.

The student who first reported on the tickets contacted an attorney with the ACLU of Kansas, who questioned whether the punishment was constitutional. But the school district defended the practice as a proper application of state law.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.