Does a student have to talk to the police if a school employee says to?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 31, 2011

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A juvenile or adult at a K-12 or higher level educational institution does not have to answer questions posed by a law enforcement officer while on school grounds. A juvenile or adult may remain silent, invoking the right to not incriminate oneself. Law enforcement officers are not allowed to direct school employees to question juveniles or adults regarding an offense. This is in large part because school employees are not required to read a juvenile or adult Miranda rights. School employees are allowed to ask juveniles or adults about offenses, especially those that concern the school, without a law enforcement officer present. 

Schools should not use the juvenile or adult’s failure to respond to a law enforcement officer or school employee directed by a law enforcement officer to punish a juvenile or adult. Schools may refer a juvenile or adult to the police department. A law enforcement officer may transport a juvenile or adult held in custody from a school to a police station or sheriff’s office. 

Law enforcement officers are required to make a good faith effort to locate a juvenile’s parents or guardian before questioning. They do not have to make this effort for an adult. School employees are not required to locate a juvenile or adult’s parents or guardian before questioning them.

Schools may punish juveniles or adults for failing to respect the authority of a law enforcement officer and school employees. Disrespect can be defined as leaving a room when ordered to stay or talking in an abusive manner to school employees or law enforcement officers.

Problems can arise when a juvenile or adult is ordered by school employees to remain in a room with law enforcement officers at the school. It can become unclear when a school’s request or detention constitutes custody as directed by a law enforcement officer. Schools may use removal, suspension, and expulsion in coordination with law enforcement officers to transfer a juvenile or adult into the custody of a law enforcement officer.

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