Do you know your rights in an encounter with law enforcement? This is a phrase heard by thousands across the state when they are handed an ACLU “Know Your Rights” tri-fold card, or “Bust Card,” as they are affectionately called. The wallet-sized cards outline everything one should know during encounters with law enforcement whether they are stopped on foot, in a vehicle, or if police come to their home. Also included in the card, is the contact information for organizations that can help file a complaint against the police if necessary. Because laws can be different in each municipality, there are cards specific to Milwaukee, Racine, and Madison. The ACLU of Wisconsin provides free workshops that explore the contents of the cards more thoroughly throughout the state and encourage everyone to exercise their rights.


The latest manifestation of the “Know Your Rights” card is specific to high school aged youth attending Wisconsin public schools. As of last school year in Milwaukee, all students are subject to daily security checks before beginning their day of classes. The change in Milwaukee Public School policy was brought to the attention of the ACLU during a regular Wednesday ACLU Student Alliance meeting, when a few of the students expressed their discontent walking through  metal detectors and having their bags checked everyday. Other students voiced concern over being treated like criminals and the accountability of people conducting the searches. It does not appear that the policy will be changing soon, and after speaking with more students, it became clear that a card stating the privacy rights of students was necessary.


The new card is in the same tri-fold format as the original, but is black and green to distinguish it from the classic red white and blue “Know Your Rights” card. The content and design were established with the help of our High School Student Alliance, and the same students have assisted in putting together a workshop that will be used to help educate their peers throughout the city. Want to find out more? Download and print the cards here,  or contact us and we will send you some.

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