Student Rights


Optimum learning atmosphere: All students shall have the right to be free from unlawful interference in their pursuit of an education while in the custody of a common school district. Further, all students have the right to an education in classrooms where there is an optimum learning atmosphere. The highest consideration must be given to the judgment of qualified certificated educators regarding conditions necessary to maintain such an atmosphere. (RCW 28A.600.020)

Search and seizure: All students possess the constitutional right to be secure in their persons, paper and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

A student shall be free from searches by school officials of his/her clothing and other personal property unless the school official has reasonable suspicion to believe that the search is necessary in the aid of maintaining school discipline and order. (District Policy/Regulation 3230 / 3230R; WAC 392-400-215).

Student lockers, desks and other storage areas remain the property of the school district, and school officials retain the right to inspect lockers, desks or other storage areas assigned to students. No right or expectation of privacy exists for any student, and these areas may be inspected or searched by school authorities at any time without prior notice and without reasonable suspicion that the search will yield evidence of any particular student’s violation of the law or a school rule. Any container(s) found as a result of a search of a locker, desk or other storage area may be searched if there is reasonable suspicion that the container(s) holds evidence of a student’s violation of the law, school rule or district policy/regulation. Containers are any item in which contraband material could be concealed, including, but are not limited to articles of clothing, handbags, backpacks and gym bags (District Policy/Regulation 3230 3230R; RCW 28A.600.220, 230 & 240).

The methods used are to be reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not be excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the suspected infraction. A principal or designee may not subject a student to a strip search or body cavity search as those terms are defined in RCW 10.79.070.

Illegal items such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, drug paraphernalia, firearms, weapons, ammunition, or other possessions reasonably determined to be evidence of criminal activity or be a threat to the safety or security of others may be seized by school authorities. Items that are used to disrupt or interfere with the educational process may be temporarily removed from student possession. (RCW 28A.600.220, 230 & 240, RCW 9.41.250 & 270 & 280)

Due process: No student shall be deprived of the right to an equal educational opportunity, in whole or in part, by a school district without due process of law.

Students may be subject to discipline, suspension or expulsion for violating district policies and regulations and school rules. Students may also be subject emergency expulsions as a measure to ensure the safety of the student or others or to prevent the disruption of the educational environment.

The procedures for appealing suspensions or expulsions, including emergency expulsions, are found in Policy 3241, Regulation 3241R and Chapter 392-400 WAC. Copies of all policies and regulations, including Policy 4210 (Regulation of Dangerous Weapons on School Premises), are available from the Public Information Office in the Central Administration Building or on the district’s website at: www.tacoma.k12.wa.us/information/schoolboard/Pages/PolicyManual.aspx.

Education during discipline, suspension, or expulsion: Students are entitled to educational services during a period of suspension or an expulsion.

Freedom of expression, equal access and free assembly: All students possess the constitutional right to freedom of speech and press, the constitutional right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government and its representatives for a redress of grievances, the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion and to have their schools free from sectarian control or influence, subject to reasonable limitations upon the time, place, and manner of exercising such right.

Students are entitled to express their personal opinions verbally, symbolically and in writing in a manner consistent with the First Amendment, considering the special nature of the school setting. True threats of violence and language or ideas of such a nature that it is reasonably probable that the expression will cause violent or unlawful behavior are not expression protected by the First Amendment and are not acceptable in the school setting. Other forms of student expression that are not expression protected by the First Amendment and are not acceptable in the school setting expressions that are: (1) profane, vulgar or obscene; (2) that reference illegal drug use, or that (3) will materially and substantially interfere with the maintenance and operation of the schools, including, but not limited to, the preservation of the educational process. Student expression that constitutes harassment or discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, marital or veteran status, or disability, or the use a dog guide or trained service animal, will not be tolerated.

School-sponsored student publications and presentations are not public forums. School officials may review and exercise editorial control over school-sponsored student publications and presentations.

Student groups must be school sponsored or authorized by the Associated Student Body to post or distribute materials at schools in compliance with any existing building or ASB rules. Rules related to the posting and distribution non-school sponsored/non-ASB groups may request to have materials distributed through the Distribution of Materials Policy and Regulation, Policy 4060 and Regulation 4060R.

Student groups must be school sponsored or authorized by the Associated Student Body to conduct meetings at school during non-instructional time. At the secondary level, student-led non-curricular ASB clubs are to be treated equally by the administration, regardless of the view point or message of the club. Such clubs must be voluntary, open to all students, led by students, and persons of the community that are not students may not direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend meetings. Staff members assigned to provide oversight of such clubs are present only to provide monitoring and not to actively participate in the club or its functions.

Freedom of peaceful assembly is regulated in time, place and manner by the building administrator. Demonstrations that interfere with the operation of the school or classroom are prohibited. Class attendance takes precedence over freedom to assemble.

Any violation by any student(s) of the limitations of freedom of expression may subject the student to such discipline (to include suspension/expulsion) as may be deemed appropriate by the school authority, consistent with due process of law.

Nondiscrimination: Tacoma Public Schools does not discriminate in any programs or activities on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following employees have been designated to handle questions and complaints of alleged discrimination: Civil Rights Coordinator: Lisa Nolan, 253-571-1252, lnolan@tacoma.k12.wa.us; Title IX Coordinator: Eric Hogan, 253-571-1191, ehogan1@tacoma.k12.wa.us; and 504 Coordinator: Elementary, Steven Mondragon, smondra@tacoma.k12.wa.us, 253-571-1173; Secondary, Jon Bell, jbell2@tacoma.k12.wa.us, 253-571-1225. Address: P.O. Box 1357, Tacoma, WA 98401-1357.

Notification of threats of violence or harm: Individual-directed threats of violence or harm are direct or indirect communications that reasonably create fear of physical harm to a specific individual or individuals, communicated directly or indirectly by any means.

Building-directed threats of violence or harm are direct or indirect communications by any means that a reasonable person would believe reflect an intent to cause damage to a school building or school property (e.g., bomb threats), or to cause physical harm to students, employees, volunteers, patrons or visitors.

Students and school employees who are subjects of threats of violence or harm shall be notified of the threats in a timely manner. Timing and details of the notice will be as extensive as permitted by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), other legal limitations and the circumstances.

Persons found to have made threats of violence or harm against district property, students, employees or others will be subject to appropriate discipline and referral to law enforcement (Policy 4314, 4314R).