Ordinance on trespassing to be clarified
A television news reporter’s trespass at a local elementary has caused the West Fargo Police Department to review the current ordinance relating to registration in public schools. The ordinance, listed below, was found to be too restrictive and was without exception to allow parents and other family members to attend school programs without first registering in the main office.
12-0705. REGISTRATION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. During such time as regularly scheduled classes are in session, no person shall enter or remain in any public elementary or secondary school building within the City of West Fargo without first registering in the main office of said school; provided, however, this section shall not apply to members of the School Board of the West Fargo School District, faculty and employees of the West Fargo School District, and students enrolled in that school.
Reasonable notification of the requirements of this section shall be conspicuously posted at the entrance to every public elementary and secondary school within the City of West Fargo, and no complaint for a violation of this section shall issue unless such notice is given.
A new ordinance has been drafted by the City Attorney to more clearly define the law. It clarifies who and when a person may be exempt from registration requirements. The law sets forth how and where notification of the requirement to register will be made. Under the ordinance a person may be arrested without a warrant within four hours of a violation even if an officer did not witness the person trespassing. After four hours the officer would be required to seek an arrest warrant through the court. The revised ordinance is listed below.
12-0705 Trespassing in Schools
1. It is a misdemeanor for a person to enter or be found in a public or nonpublic elementary, middle, or secondary school building unless the person:
a. Is an enrolled student in, a parent or guardian of an enrolled student in, or an employee of the school or school district;
b. Has permission or an invitation from a school official to be in the building;
c. Is attending a school event, class, or meeting to which the person, the public, or a student’s family is invited; or
d. Has reported the person’s presence in the school building in the manner required for visitors to the school.
2. Reasonable notification of the requirements of this section shall be conspicuously posted at the entrance to every public or nonpublic elementary, middle, or secondary school building within the City of West Fargo, and no complaint for a violation of this section shall issue unless such notice is given.
3. A school principle or a school employee designated by the school principle to maintain order on school property, who has reasonable cause to believe that a person is violating this section may detain the person in a reasonable manner for a reasonable period of time pending the arrival of a peace officer. A school principal or designated school employee is not civilly or criminally liable for any action authorized under this paragraph if the person’s action is based on reasonable cause.
4. A peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the person violated this section within the preceding four hours. The arrest may be made even though the violation did not occur in the peace officer’s presence.
It is unfortunate the news reporter choose to enter the elementary school and violate the existing ordinance. There was a positive outcome from that event which resulted in the review and amendment of the existing ordinance to provide clarity and practicality to the enforcement of trespassing in schools.
The school system and law enforcement work together to assess risk and improve school safety. The school modifies and upgrades both their facilities and their practices to enhance the safety of the children in the class room. Because of those efforts schools remain one of the safes places for our children today.