ACLU, students drop Lake Oswego curfew lawsuit
Changes to city law 'cure' constitutional issues, plaintiffs say
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and a group of Lake Oswego High School students have ended their quest to abolish the city curfew ordinance.
They dropped their lawsuit - Trompke v. Schmitz - against the city of Lake Oswego 'after evaluating the constitutional merits of the new (curfew) law,' the plaintiffs said.
'We determined that the change to the law the city made was a significant improvement toward curing the constitutional defects of the existing curfew,' said Portland attorney David Silverman.
Silverman, an ACLU volunteer, represented LOHS seniors Paul Trompke, Hanna Piazza, Taylor Goldsmith, Kyle Hayes and sophomore Paul Bonney.
Last year, the students told the city council that its curfew ordinance was vague, discriminated against teens and violated their constitutional rights. They also demanded that the curfew be abolished - not changed.
Their controversial effort, which generated many letters to the Review, was part of a class project for Political Action Seminar.
Councilors responded by holding a public hearing and suggesting the students work alongside the city's Youth Council to amend the ordinance.
The students met with the Youth Council in February, but left feeling frustrated after their peers hesitated to take a stance on the issue.
One month later, with the backing of the ACLU, the students sued the city of Lake Oswego to challenge the curfew as unconstitutional.
City attorney David Powell wrote Silverman a letter urging him to drop the suit, which he called 'disappointing' and a 'wasted opportunity.'
'The city was open to making … changes anyway,' he said. 'We could have done this without a lawsuit. It is unfortunate because it prevented more student interaction with the city council.'
In August, city officials responded to the suit by changing the ordinance to include a wide range of exceptions as well as adjusting the time limit for how late minors could stay on city streets.
The original ordinance forbid children younger than 14 to be on city streets between 9:15 p.m. and 6 a.m. during the school year. Those ages 14 to 17 could be out for an hour later Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday and during summer break.
The newly passed curfew will begin at 10:15 p.m. for those 14-and-under and midnight for individuals 14 to 17 on all days.
It also includes exceptions to the curfew for family emergencies, errands at the direction of a parent, interstate travel, employment activities, remaining on the sidewalk near a residence, attending activities sponsored by civic organizations or the city and 'exercising First Amendment rights as protected by the U.S. Constitution.'
At the time, the students expressed displeasure at the changes, saying they would rather see the curfew disappear.
Now, however, it seems they've changed their minds.
According to Silverman, the exceptions provide additional defense to a curfew violation, while Trompke believes that the city has responded with an ordinance that protects teens' basic rights.
'We are proud of what we have accomplished in Lake Oswego,' Trompke said.
The students plan to continue working with the ACLU on its ongoing efforts to change or abolish curfews. According to the ACLU, other cities and towns in Oregon continue to infringe on teens' constitutional rights.
'It is something that we all felt passionate about and we still do,' Trompke said.
The students are now focused on informing other LOHS students about the curfew ordinance changes as well as their general rights inside and outside of school.
They plan to hold a forum with members of the ACLU and the Lake Oswego Police Department to answer students' questions about their constitutional rights. They are also working on a free pamphlet that will be a guide to student rights.
'We wouldn't be where we are right now without the ACLU,' Trompke said. 'The work they put into this is tremendous. I can't thank them enough for listening to us and putting themselves out there on the line to defend students' rights.'
Trompke, who is the LOHS Associated Student Body president, said that the experience with the curfew ordinance taught the group about change at the local level.
'The political process can be extremely slow at times and it can be extremely rewarding,' he said. 'It's been a great opportunity to get involved in local politics.'
Powell praised the dismissal of the lawsuit, saying the decision was an appropriate one.
'The city council did a good job of analyzing the pros and cons of nuisance regulations and changing it to something that made sense for Lake Oswego and was constitutionally sound,' Powell said.