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Curfew caution

Students want city to nix law

Members of the Lake Oswego City Council agreed to compromise with a group of Lake Oswego High School students who asked them to abolish the city's teen curfew Tuesday.

But their offer to amend the current ordinance with the teens' help wasn't enough to satisfy the group, whose members repeatedly told council they want the curfew abolished permanently.

'Compromise is not acceptable because we can't compromise on constitutional rights,' said student Hanna Piazza.

Group members, who are backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, said they believe the curfew ordinance discriminates against teens and violates their right to move about freely.

They also told council they feel it's parents' responsibility to monitor their own children - not the city's.

'I've had many friends pulled over and cited for curfew,' said student Paul Trompke. 'It's something we found needed to be changed.'

The current ordinance, which is based on a state law, forbids children younger than 14 to be on the streets between 9:15 p.m. and 6 a.m. Those 14 to 18 can be out until 10:15 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday during the school year.

Last year, police cited 19 children for violating curfew.

The group's presentation, given as part of an LOHS Political Action Seminar assignment, highlighted studies that showed curfews are ineffective and discriminatory.

LOHS Principal Bruce Plato, PAS teacher Gerrit Koepping and several of their parents and peers attended the meeting.

'This is a very interesting project that's caused me to think about a subject I otherwise wouldn't have,' said Councilor Ellie McPeak. 'You make some good points.'

McPeak pointed out that a majority of cities in Oregon, including Portland, enforce a curfew ordinance. She asked the students if they thought the frequency of curfews represented what those communities want and need.

'What's popular isn't always right,' replied LOHS student Kyle Hayes.

At the end of the presentation, the council offered to take a closer look at the curfew, but it didn't make any promise to fulfill the group's request.

'I appreciate having a community that's supportive of our youth,' said Mayor Judie Hammerstad. 'It's not the crime … it's the safety. While I appreciate what you're saying, we have laws to protect our most vulnerable, rather than our most responsible.'

Council also offered the help of the city's six-member youth council and incoming Councilor Kristin Johnson. Johnson, 22, reminded the students that change in government does not happen overnight.

'You came to us with a specific goal,' Johnson said. 'We want to work with you. The law may change, go away entirely, be amended or nothing at all.'

Her words, however, didn't please the high school juniors. They're determined to work on the issue for as long as it takes to get the curfew repealed in Lake Oswego.

'They weren't listening to our key arguments,' Piazza said. 'They focused more on protecting teenagers.'

ACLU volunteer attorney David Silverman, who is acting as the students' adviser, was not present.

Brian Willoughby, ACLU communications director, wouldn't elaborate on the potential legal action his organization would take if council does not abolish curfew.

'Compromise doesn't go hand-in-hand with the matter of (a law) being unconstitutional,' he said, adding, 'It's nice to see young people rise up against laws that affect them.'