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City changes curfew rules for teenagers

The Lake Oswego City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday that would push back the city's curfew hours and add exceptions to the law.

The council, which took public testimony at an earlier meeting, presented the revised curfew law for final adoption. It passed 4-2.

The curfew is at the center of a controversial lawsuit filed in April against the city by the American Civil Liberties Union of Portland on behalf of four incoming Lake Oswego High School seniors.

Paul Trompke, Kyle Hayes, Taylor Goldsmith and Hanna Piazza claim the curfew discriminates by age and their constitutional right to 'moving about freely' and allows police unfettered discretion to pull teens over or confront them even if they aren't committing a crime.

ACLU volunteer attorney David Silverman, Portland, represents the students, who say they want the curfew abolished - not changed.

But the council voiced opposition to that idea last spring. Instead, it offered to work with the students - with the help of the city's youth council - to reword the curfew.

The council moved forward with that plan Tuesday by amending the law to include exceptions to curfew restrictions and pushing back curfew hours.

The exceptions would be similar to those in the current San Diego, Calif., curfew (which was enacted in response to the Nunez v. City of San Diego case in 1997) and the Dallas, Texas, curfew (found to be constitutional in the Qutb v. Strauss case in 1993).

It would amend the curfew to state that an individual would not be violating curfew if he or she were in the following situations:

n Driving on the interstate.

n Involved in an emergency, such as a fire, natural disaster or car accident.

n On the public right of way next to the child's residence.

n Attending an official school, religious or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the city, a civic organization or another similar entity.

n Exercising First Amendment rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.

It would also include an exception if the child were on an errand for a parent and would require police to ask the minor's age and reason for being in public to 'form a reasonable belief that an offense has occurred and that no defense exists before citing the minor or taking the minor into custody.'

Most noteably, however, are the changes the city made to the specific hours dictated in the law.

The original ordinance forbade 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 can 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.

Councilor John Turchi said he was concerned about the later hours of the new curfew. He suggested an earlier curfew for 15 year olds and asked that those 16 and over have a 11 p.m. curfew on weekdays.

Some council members disgreed with Turchi, saying they wanted to keep the curfew as unconfusing as possible.

'We would be vastly complicating the ordinance if we accepted (Turchi's) amendment,' said Councilor Frank Groznik.

Councilors in favor of the ordinance said they want to give parents the freedom to set an earlier curfew and allow teens to use their own judgement.

'The curfew really pertains to students who are out without purpose,' said Mayor Judie Hammerstad.

She noted that teens are just as unsafe on a weekend as they are on a weekday.

'Is it specific enough to meet consitutional requirements? Certainly it's not vague,' Hammerstad said.

Silverman said the changes 'are are a step in the right direction.'

'We see it as positive change, although we feel that it doesn't go far enough to addressing the constitutional problems … with the curfew,' he added.

Silverman said the ACLU will meet with its lawyers in September to evaluate how to proceed with the lawsuit.

The students, who enrolled in the same Political Action Seminar class for their senior year, will be involved in future decisions.

Overall, the students were not pleased with the changes made to the city curfew. They say it still violates their constitutional rights and discriminates by age.

Hayes said changing the curfew makes it easier for the ACLU to bypass the city and move onto challenging state law.

'(The council members) still have to address those fundamental questions,' Trompke said. 'They're just protecting themselves right now.'