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I have a student-administration meeting (voluntary) with a couple of other students and school administration. This meeting is being held over a walkout held recently within the school, and I would like to record it without the administration's knowledge of the recording being present. Is this legal? I understand that Washington is a two-party consent state, yet I vaguely remember recording laws differentiating on federal property. Is there such an exemption for school property as well? Would recording this meeting without consent be legal? I am in the Bellevue School District, Washington State, United States.

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  • Is the school a public or private school?
    – hszmv
    Dec 9, 2021 at 15:40
  • Have you considered inviting (a) a member of the press; (b) a member of the Board of Education? / What are your goals for this meeting? What are theirs? / I'm a bit uncomfortable with a small group attending such a meeting. I would have thought it would have been better to have an open meeting that anyone interested could attend. Institutions so often try to cut the leadership off from potential supporters. Or is there now a disciplinary aspect to this? Dec 12, 2021 at 7:11

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The nature of the meeting matters: I assume this is a private meeting, not a public meeting. Under RCW 9.73.030, you have to announce that the meeting is being recorded (the announcement must itself be recorded), or the recording device must be obvious. There is no exception regarding property status (such as "on school property; in a government-funded facility"). But it also matters if the conversation is "private". See State v. Townsend, 57 P.3d 255, which gives weight to the subjective intent of the parties, thus the primary question would be whether the school official intended the communication to be private. Given strong FERPA privacy protection of personal information about students and in light of the likely nature of the conversation, one might think that the administrator intends the discussion to be private. However, the administrator cannot discuss e.g. disciplinary issues with third parties, so that would not be a valid basis for expecting privacy. You would really need to get a lawyer, discuss the expected subjects with the lawyer, and see if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy (even if this is not a public meeting). Your local ACLU chapter might advise you of your rights, though they would probably also advise you to not experiment with breaking the law (I don't see what legitimate purpose would be served by recording in secret).

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