5th Circuit on parents’ rights

Tomorrow at the Zooming with the Dawg call Leandra Ortiz and I will be talking about some of the cases that address parental rights to direct the education of their children.  I’m sure that one case we will talk about is Meadows v. Lake Travis ISD.  Mr. and Mrs. Meadows sued the district after Mrs. Meadows was denied access to certain parts of the school.  She wanted to meet with her child’s teacher. She wanted to attend a school musical. She wanted to attend a volleyball game, and the Thanksgiving lunch to which parents were invited. Why was Mrs. Meadows denied these simple privileges?  Because she refused to allow the district to run her drivers’ license through the Raptor System.

The Raptor System is designed to identify people who are listed on a registered sex offender database. There is no indication that Mrs. Meadows was on any such list. But the school could not verify that because she refused to allow the school to access her drivers’ license.  

In the suit the plaintiffs cited the Supreme Court cases from nearly 100 years ago that establish that parents do have a fundamental constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children.  But that is a broadly stated right. In specific court cases the judge applies that broad principle to more specifically delineated situations.  Here the issue was: does the parents’ constitutional right include the right of unfettered access to visit all areas of the school campus?  When the question is posed that way, the answer is easy:

We readily acknowledge that parents do have a constitutional right to direct their children’s education, but the Meadows have put forth no caselaw 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 also acknowledged the critical importance of systems like Raptor that are designed to maintain safety:

The District obviously has a compelling interest in determining, inter alia, whether a potential visitor to its school is a registered sex offender. The regulation [FFF] is narrowly tailored because Raptor takes only the minimum information necessary to determine sex-offender status, identify the visitor, and ensure the lack of false positives.

According to www.raptortech.com, Raptor now serves over 80% of the schools in Texas and over 35,000 school nationwide.  So I’m guessing that a good many Loyal Daily Dawg Readers are well aware of how it works.

As far as parent rights, this case is a good illustration of the fact that you have to thin slice them. It’s not enough to assert “fundamental right.” You have to apply it to a specific situation to see if the right extends that far. This is what we’ll be talking about tomorrow.  Hope to see you there!

Meadows v. Lake Travis ISD was decided by the 5th Circuit on September 8, 2010.  It’s cited at 2010 WL 3516622; 263 Education Law Report 525; and 397 Fed. App’x. 1. 


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow:  Northwest ISD wins one at the 5th Circuit