Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1995 NO. 3 > Mar 23 1995

1.  The state constitution does not prohibit schools from adopting a "limited open forum" policy for student organizations making use of school districts' facilities, even where federal law requires that equal access be granted to student groups for religious purposes, so long as it is clear that the school district maintains a neutral position on religious matters.  2. A school district may recognize student groups engaged in religious activity and grant such groups access to school time and space on the same basis offered to other student organizations, so long as the district grants equal access to all points of view and neither endorses nor opposes the activities of any particular group.

AGO 1997 NO. 4 > Oct 7 1997

1.It would not violate article VIII, section 7, of the state constitution to include privately-owned and operated schools and colleges in the K-20 Educational Network, provided that the private schools and colleges provide consideration in the form of monetary payment and valuable services. 2.It would not violate article I, section 11, or article IX, section 4, of the state constitution to include religiously-affiliated schools and colleges in the K-20 Educational Network, provided that there is consideration in the form of monetary payment and services, and provided that the Network is not operated in such a way as to violate the constitution.  

AGLO 1980 NO. 7 > Jan 28 1980

Funds appropriated by §§ 14 and 15 of chapter 118, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess., for administration of the mandatory school immunization program thereby established may not be disbursed to private, church-related schools (a) because of a lack of statutory authority and (b) because of the constitutional prohibitions in Article IX, § 4 and Article VIII, § 7 of the Washington Constitution; the legislature, however, could make certain suggested amendments to the law which, if enacted, would establish a constitutionally permissible contractual basis for such payments.

AGO 1998 NO. 8 > Jul 30 1998

1.  It would not be a gift of public funds or lending of state credit to require fingerprint-background checks of current employees of private schools, and to appropriate state funds to pay for such checks. 2.  A proposed bill which would appropriate state funds to pay for fingerprint-background checks on all employees of private schools would not, as written, violate the state constitutional prohibitions against applying public funds or property in support of religion.

AGO 1995 NO. 8 > May 25 1995

It would violate the state and federal constitutions to place students at state-funded colleges and universities and student teachers in "pervasively religious" elementary or secondary schools, as defined in case law; whether a particular school is "pervasively religious" must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

AGO 2009 NO. 8 > Dec 11 2009

1. The Legislature may create a basic education program of early learning that is limited to students who are at risk of educational failure.  However, article IX, section 1 of the Washington Constitution would preclude limiting such a program to students from low-income households, absent a showing that low family income is an accurate proxy for the risk of educational failure.  This would include showing that other students facing the risk of educational failure are not excluded based on family income.

AGO 1996 NO. 10 > Jul 9 1996

1.  Under current U. S. Supreme Court case law, it would not be constitutional for the officers or employees of a school district (or other governmental entity operating a school) to plan for and include prayer as a part of a commencement exercise or similar official school function.  2.  Under current Ninth Circuit case precedent, it would not be constitutional for a school district (or other governmental entity operating a school) to allow its students to include prayer as a part of a student-planned commencement exercise or similar official school function.  3.  Private, non-disruptive prayers at commencement exercises, which are not a part of the planned program and which do not disrupt it, are constitutional under current case law.  4.  Because the state constitution is stricter than the federal with regard to the support of religion with public funds and/or property, there is no purpose to be served in separately analyzing the state constitutional issues raised by prayer at commencement programs.

AGO 1977 NO. 11 > May 6 1977

Legislation providing for a mandatory minute of silence at the commencement of each school day in the public schools of our state, to be observed for meditation or prayer at the discretion of the students involved, would, if enacted by the state legislature, be constitutionally defensible.

AGO 1957 NO. 82 > Jun 13 1957

The University of Washington may not authorize and assist in presenting a religious program in which University personnel participate in meetings in the classrooms.