A recent case involving an arrest following a false confession highlights the need for a change to Indiana law. If a school employs school resource officers who are functioning as law enforcement officers, then school administrators must no longer be allowed to interrogate children about possible crimes or delinquent acts without full constitutional protections.
The highlighted case centers around a bomb threat and a fifteen-year-old child, who was known to be mentally ill. The child was questioned by school administrators. After eliciting a false confession, the child was arrested and placed in the juvenile detention center for approximately twenty-four hours, according to published reports. (See WTHR, the Indianapolis Star, and the Daily Journal). Once staff from the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the case, no charges were filed, the child was released from detention, and, after law enforcement investigated, another student was eventually arrested for allegedly committing the delinquent act.
Superintendent Richard Arkanoff released a statement to WTHR, which states, in part, “[t]he first issue is whether school administrators should be allowed to interview students without parents present regarding a situation that may or may not lead to criminal charges. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed law that allows schools to act in loco parentis, meaning parents do not have to be present in order for students to be interviewed. I can assure you the Center Grove Police Department and Center Grove High School administrators followed all applicable laws, policies, and procedures during the investigation of this case.”
True. But, this case law goes back to a time when our schools were not routinely occupied by armed law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity. The school administrators of old would investigate misconduct and often handle the discipline internally. In some rare occasions, law enforcement was eventually contacted and those confessions to administrators were deemed to be admissible.
We are in a new time. Discipline is not handled as it once was. We are post-Columbine and Sandy Hook. Law enforcement is now routinely involved. As long as school resource officers are at the ready to handle investigations of alleged criminal or delinquent behavior using their training as law enforcement officers, school administrators should no longer be allowed to perform their own investigation subverting the constitutional and statutory protections of having a parent or attorney present prior to a waiver of the Right to Remain Silent (See I.C. 31-32-5-1, Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Article I, Section 14 of the Indiana Constitution).
See also this prior post, SRO’s in Schools, Increased Juvenile Court Involvement and this prior post about SEA 85, which goes into effect on July 1, 2014, and redefines a school resource officer and the training required.
The post Call to End Certain School Administrator Interrogations first appeared in the Indiana Juvenile Justice Blog.