Anti-Bullying — Schools as Law Enforcement Investigators?

The Indiana Law Blog posted a cite to an Indiana Department of Education Anti-Bullying School Policy page.  This page illustrates the continued blurring of the line between schools and law enforcement.  Near the bottom of the page under “Legal Considerations” is a link for “Criminal Offenses,” which contains this document: potential-criminal-offenses-bullying-investigations.

The opening paragraphs states:

Below is a list of criminal offenses that schools may encounter when investigating reports of bullying. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all possible criminal offenses.  Additionally, the cited criminal offense statutes have been edited to include only the information relevant in an educational setting. Full text of the statutes can be found by the provided Indiana Code citation.  Local law enforcement agencies should be contacted if, in the process of investigation of a bullying incident, a school believes that a crime has been committed.

The bolded disclaimer states that the document is not legal advice. But, it directs teachers and school administrators to conduct investigations on bullying incidents and contact law enforcement if a school believed that a crime has been committed.  The schools are being given some statutes — sometimes only partial statutes — without clarifying case law and definitions to use in their investigations.

The school administrator’s job is complicated — provide education, food, safety, and security to thousands of children.  Is it really necessary for them to be strapped with the burden of performing an investigation of whether a crime has occurred, in addition to their internal investigation of whether a school rule was broken?  If the administrator believes an anti-bullying rule was broken, those reports could be forwarded to law enforcement for review by someone who’s daily job is to determine whether it is likely a crime occurred.

This suggested process is already done with many Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), Child Protective Services reports that are forwarded by statute to law enforcement pursuant to IC 31-33-8-2 and by statutory agreement to the appropriate prosecuting attorney pursuant to IC 31-33-8-5.   This allows DCS to focus on abuse and neglect, and allows law enforcement to focus on criminal investigations.

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