Thu, June 27

UPDATE: ACLU Arizona demands Mingus Union change ID badge policy

COTTONWOOD – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has asked Mingus Union High School to put an end to the school’s current identification badge policy or it “will be forced to pursue further action.”

In a Dec. 28 letter to Mingus Union acting superintendent Genie Gee and current members of the school board, Kathleen Brody, legal director for the organization’s Arizona chapter, wrote on behalf of a student and her mother, “to demand” Mingus Union to “cease the practice of forcing students … to wear distinct badges that divulge their educational achievement level to students, teachers, school administrators and the public.”

According to the ACLU of Arizona, the badge policy “violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

"Students have been issued ID cards for many years," said MUHS Acting Superintendent Genie Gee. "This is the first year that Mingus has required all students and staff to wear their credentials during the school day. This was implemented as a safety feature to better identify those who should be on campus. Freshmen and sophomores are issued red ID cards and juniors and seniors are issued grey ID cards. The student IDs are red and grey to represent our school colors. Upperclassmen have open-campus lunch and they show their grey ID to be allowed through the gates. Underclassmen receive a red ID and are not allowed to leave during lunch. This is a long-standing practice at Mingus."

Gee continued: "Juniors receive grey IDs as long as they are a true junior - meaning they have earned at least 12 credits toward graduation. All seniors receive a grey ID. We have never issued red IDs based upon disciplinary issues or letter grades. This year, the only difference in IDs is that juniors who have not earned the credits of a junior are not allowed to leave campus for lunch. We have Power Hour/Academic Overtime available and want to encourage the extra help."

The ACLU of Arizona letter stated the student claims “by wearing the scarlet badge, she receives less individual instruction from teaches because they assume she is not interested, motivated or capable of learning.”

“This all causes (the student) to experience increased anxiety at school, feel ostracized from other students and feel stigmatized by teachers and administrators,” the letter stated. “ ... students deserve to attend school without being branded by administrators and bullied by fellow classmates.”

According to Marcela Taracena, communications coordinator with the ACLU of Arizona, Mingus Union by “forcing their students to disclose their private academic information by wearing that badge has resulted in increased discrimination, bullying and disengagement.”

“The scarlet badge singles out students who are struggling academically,” Taracena said. “And we are asking that Mingus end this ID scheme immediately.”

Mingus Union’s attorney said Monday that there are “valid internal security reasons for coding the IDs.”

“This designation was adopted for safety reasons to determine whether students have off-campus lunch privileges,” said Gust Rosenfeld PLC Attorney Susan Segal. “School authorities need to be able to tell who can be leaving campus, who can be in the halls, who should be in class or a study hall.”

Segal also said that her office “is researching this issue and will be issuing a response to the ACLU letter this week.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42