By ERIC STEVICK
EVERETT — High school students opposed to a new policy requiring them to wear photo identification badges argued their case to the Everett School Board on Tuesday.
Students Yuya Kobayashi and Katherine Ervine presented the board with more than 1,000 signatures from students and parents opposed to the badge policy, which is expected to take effect Jan. 30.
Everett High School would become the first school in Snohomish County to require students to wear photo identification badges, which must be displayed above the waist.
The board did not take a formal position on the issue, which first surfaced as students returned from summer vacation. The students who oppose the badges says it is a violation of their privacy rights, while the school administration depicts it as a safety precaution.
The policy imposes increasingly severe penalties, beginning with a verbal warning for a first violation and resulting in a one-day suspension for a third violation. Eventually, students could face a long-term suspension.
"Despite their intent … the end result would be a violation of our right to privacy," Kobayashi said.
For Pat Sullivan, Everett High School’s principal, the badges are part of an effort to ensure safety for students and staff. The requirement has a lot to do with the layout of the campus, which has seven buildings but no fences and is intersected by busy city streets.
Only two other high schools in the state have a similar configuration of city streets. One of them is in Kennewick, and it has an identification badge requirement, he said.
In a lockdown, the badges could help staff members identify who belongs and who doesn’t on the campus, while preventing students "who rely on anonymity to protect their conduct" from misbehaving, Sullivan said.
Faculty and staff began wearing identification badges last year. Student ID cards include a photo, their name and identification number, their student bar code and a spot indicating if they have parental permission to use the Internet at school.
Sullivan said the school has tried to address student concerns by making the type smaller on the badges to make it harder for people at a distance to read their names.
To Kobayashi, who splits time between the high school and a college campus, the badge issue is a philosophical one.
Schools need "reasonable suspicion" of wrongdoing to infringe on the right to privacy, Kobayashi said. "It’s not like we wear our drivers’ licenses," he said.
Kobayashi said the issue was brought to the school board to bring attention to it, and the students didn’t expect a quick decision.
Ervine questioned whether the badges would even be an effective safety measure.
Gerry Ervine supported his daughter’s willingness to challenge the badge policy.
"It hasn’t been shown to me that it has any benefit at all," he said.
Roy Yates, the school board president, said he has heard from several parents who support the policy.
"To a person, they felt this was not onerous" and would protect their children, Yates said.
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