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March 26, 1971
Honorable Keith J. Spanton
State Representative, 15th District
Olympia, Washington 98501
Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 52 (not official)
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion regarding the legal status of a certain organization, known as the "Black Student Union," which you report to have been formed by Negro students attending Davis High School in Yakima.
From the constitution and bylaws of this organization, a copy of which you have provided in conjunction with your request, it appears that the "Black Student Union" is simply a private association composed of a certain group of students enrolled at the subject high school ‑ a public high school operated by the school district encompassing the territory of the city of Yakima. From our examination of the statutes and constitutional provisions pertaining to public school districts in this state, we can see no basis for denying these students the right to form this association. Nor, so long as its activities are carried on in a manner consistent with state law and with such rules and regulations as may have been promulgated by the school district with respect to student organizations and associations, generally, can we see any basis for determining that the administrators of the school district are acting in excess of their authority in encouraging the organization's formation.
In so far as student organizations such as this are concerned, the only state statute which might, conceivably, have some bearing in a particular factual situation would be RCW 28A.04.120 (4). This statute, which relates to the accreditation of secondary school programs by the state board of education, provides that,
". . . no public or private high schools shall be placed upon the accredited list so long as secret societies are knowingly allowed to exist among its students by school officials." (Emphasis supplied.)
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However, nothing contained in the organizational constitution or bylaws which you have submitted to us for review indicates to us that this organization would constitute a "secret society" within the purview of this statute.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General