STUDENT SUES SEATTLE CENTRAL OVER MARIJUANA CONFESSION
A 16-year-old Running Start student is suing Seattle Central Community College claiming she was kicked out of school after being coerced into signing a statement related to marijuana possession. The student is asking her suspension be reversed, alleging the statement she signed was false -- and that the college's campus security officers acted inappropriately by forcing her admission of guilt.
The lawsuit, filed late last month on behalf of Whitney Williams and her mother, states that Seattle Central security officers smelled marijuana near Williams and two friends a block and a half from the Capitol Hill campus last April. The officers asked the students to come to the security office, where they found a bag of marijuana in Williams' book bag.
The security officers denied Williams the chance make a phone call, instead insisting that she draft a confessional statement, the lawsuit alleges. "At this point, Whitney was crying and begging these men to allow her to speak with her mother by phone before she drafted any statement," court documents state. After she wrote the statement, an officer said she couldn't call her mother until she added text, which he dictated, according to the lawsuit.
Court documents to not indicate what was included in the statement. Williams, a Bainbridge Island resident, attended Seattle Central as a Running Start student, meaning she received both high school and college credit for classes. According to documents, the statement led to the 16-year-old being effectively expelled until after her high school graduation. Williams attended a disciplinary hearing, where she asked for lenience. "During her hearing, she pleaded with the hearing panel not to diminish her pursuit of higher educational options," court documents say. "As Whitney put it, 'Education is my thing.'" In a letter from Seattle Central President Mildred Ollee, Williams was informed she would not be welcome back at the school this fall.
The letter is quoted: "The final decision is you are suspended from enrollment at Seattle Central Community College until such time that you graduate from high school or obtain a GED. Your enrollment for fall quarter... will be cancelled and you will need to make other arrangements for high school attendance for the coming year." Phone calls to the Williams home and a Seattle Central spokeswoman were not immediately returned Thursday. Seattle Central's student code of conduct requires that students "refraining from actions that endanger themselves or others," according to a statement on the college's Web site. What those actions consist of is not stipulated online.
That Williams was stopped more than a block from Seattle Central's urban campus could point to a larger trend in higher education. Around the nation, a growing number of colleges and universities are starting to take a more proactive approach to monitoring off-campus behavior and neighbors say the efforts are working. The University of Washington now enforces its campus behavior code off campus as well.
A student doesn't need to be charged with a violent crime to activate the campus code; being cited for breaking the city's noise regulations is enough to score an invite to the student conduct office. Seattle University conducts cyber-patrols of student activities, flagging parties advertised on Facebook or other sites and shutting those events down when they're deemed inappropriate.