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Whatcom County deputy says his son’s teacher is telling kids how to skirt the law

A hallway is empty with most of the lights off and one classroom light still on at a school in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

A father, who happens to be a Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy, is upset about what one of his son’s teachers is instructing students in the high school civics class.

Scott MellEma told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that his son was looking forwarding to taking this class on rights and case studies on law to help further his career choice to follow in his dad’s footsteps. That is, until this lesson on searches.

MellEma said his son lost interest in the class last spring because he didn’t agree with the approach his teacher was taking.

One of the examples MellEma really had a problem with is: A principal heard that a student had marijuana in his backpack and they want to search the bag. What should the student do?

The teacher is heard saying, “I’ll tell you what you probably should do. Run. Let’s say you bust out of the office and you run to your car, got in the car, and you blow out of the school. Could the school call the police?”

The teacher explains that the police would need probable cause to search a student. The principal only needs reasonable suspicion.

“When I brought it up to the school staff, this is one of the clips that bothered me the most because you’re basically telling kids to break the law, how to get out of trouble, and that it’s better to get suspended for three days than get a drug charge,” MellEma said. “Also, leaving campus, high speeds, what if he hit somebody?”

MellEma had other examples, including one that emphasized that things can go bad for a person of color who is pulled over in a traffic stop. Another included a mention that a person who admitted to using meth while pulled over for a traffic stop could have lied and said the needle was for diabetes.

The teachers also suggested the students memorize two important phrases for encountering police: “I do not consent to a search,” and “am I free to go?”

Dori said that teaching students their rights doesn’t bother him, but MellEma said the presentation is what he had a problem with.

MellEma said he has tried to get the school to deal with it several times and has never got acknowledgment that this lesson for students was wrong.

“The only answer that we got from them is that they consider the issue closed and that they have dealt with it, but they couldn’t tell me what the discussions were,” he said. “They couldn’t tell me if there was disciplinary action taken. There was no real communication or accountability that I could see.”

MellEma said he has another child in high school that he plans to steer away from this particular class.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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