This morning’s City Paper story
on the Metro legal department’s evaluation of the new public school uniform policy chose spin over substance. The standard school attire policy “passes constitutional muster,” according to the story’s headline. But what the legal memo drafted by associate director of law Mike Safley actually says is that the policy is vulnerable to constitutional challenges on several grounds.
On its face, says Safley’s memo, a court probably wouldn’t find that the policy infringes on free speech or due process rights. But he goes on to say that courts could invalidate parts of the policy because of vagueness about the criteria for applying religious, medical or special-needs exemptions. Also legally troublesome is a provision allowing students to wear the uniforms of nationally recognized student organizations on certain days. This piece of the policy, writes Safley, “could be challenged as allowing officials to favor one viewpoint or organization over another” – in other words, a First Amendment challenge.
to the school uniform policy have been saying all along that arbitrary decisions by school administrators about exemptions and opt-outs will invite costly legal risks. The Metro law department memo appears to confirm those suspicions. MNPS director Pedro Garcia, meanwhile, is telling school board members that the law department has identified "minor areas" that "need further clarification, a task which is easily accomplished." (Safley’s memo summarizes the conclusions of a formal legal opinion that is still being prepared.)