Mingus lawyer says ACLU Arizona letter ‘incorrectly states’ facts, law

Susan Segal

Susan Segal

COTTONWOOD – Whether Mingus Union High School’s students should wear identification badges is a decision “for the district and its governing board.”

That’s what Gust Rosenfeld and Mingus Union attorney Susan Segal wrote Wednesday to the legal director of the ACLU of Arizona in response to the organization’s Dec. 28 claim that Mingus Union’s 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.”

“Your letter incorrectly states the facts and the law,” Segal wrote. “The district denies that it has violated any laws or rights of the student as you have alleged in your letter. And, as you are probably aware, courts are loathe to micromanage school districts.”

Mingus Union’s decision this year to require all students and staff to wear their credentials during the school day “is based upon its determination that it is necessary for educational and security reasons,” Segal wrote in the Jan. 2 letter. “It allows the campus officials to determine who should and should not be on the campus.”

Claim

The ACLU of Arizona stated in the Dec. 28 letter that a student “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 [her] to experience increased anxiety at school, feel ostracized from other students and feel stigmatized by teachers and administrators,” the letter stated. “[She] and other students deserve to attend school without being branded by administrators and bullied by fellow classmates.”

Mingus Union principal and acting superintendent Genie Gee said in an email to the Verde Independent that “the notion that we would issue a scarlet badge in an attempt to shame our young people is in direct conflict with the very message of love, hope, and optimism that we vigorously promote.”

Red vs. gray

Gee said that the school’s badge policy 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 gray ID cards, colors that represent the school’s color scheme.

Characterization by the ACLU of Arizona “of the badges as a scarlet letter that implies the use of color [as] punitive is misleading,” Segal wrote in her Jan. 2 letter. “Had the school colors been green and gold, the badges would have been those colors.”

Gee said that it’s a “long-standing practice” at Mingus Union for upperclassmen to be allowed to leave campus for lunch and that with this year’s badge policy, “they show their grey ID to be allowed through the gates.”

Underclassmen receive a red ID and are not allowed to leave during lunch. Though all seniors receive a grey ID, some juniors can be issued a red badge, Gee said, if they are not “a true junior, meaning they have [not] earned at least 12 credits toward graduation.”

But Mingus Union has “never issued red IDs based upon disciplinary issues or letter grades,” Gee also said.

“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,” Gee said. “We have Power Hour [and] Academic Overtime available and want to encourage the extra help.”

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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