Update: The legislation never got referred to the committee and as a result must be re-introduced next session. Unfortunately, Rep Kestell is retiring and Sen Leibham is running for Congress, so both of my legislators, who acted as sponsors for this legislation, are likely to be gone(although I will grant that Mr. Leibham will have stiff competition for Rep Petri's seat in Sen Grothman.) I own to some disappointment. You may see the latest update here.
By now, any regular here knows Mom (Call Me Mom to be exact). Mom's had an open invitation to guest post here, and she dazzles with the following. Sit back, relax and enjoy.
"Where to begin? The topic is one that is near and dear to my heart and the hearts of all parents. It is but a portion of the topic of parental rights. There have been some judicial rulings made in the last 10-20 years which were meant to streamline the disciplinary process in our schools, but, instead they have stripped us of our parental rights during the time when our child is attending school. They have also left our children open to the most tyrannical interrogatory procedures I have ever heard of in these United States . I hope that you, gentle reader, will be motivated by the information presented here, to contact your own legislators and take back your parental rights.
To start, I shall inform you that you and the courts have granted school officials the status of “in loco parentis” for the hours that your children attend school. “In loco parentis” means nothing more or less than that the school is acting “in the place of a parent”. This is necessary for a number of reasons and is generally a reasonable thing. If your child is passing notes or being disruptive, this means that the teacher or principal can administer reasonable consequences within the parameters of school board policy and stated procedures.
We have a problem when the school official, while acting in loco parentis, is also acting as an agent of law enforcement. If little Johnny or Susie is passing notes or making a ruckus, it is reasonable for them to be sent to the office and disciplined by school officials. If, however, little Johnny or Susie are called into the office to be disciplined for or questioned about something that can be used to charge them in a criminal proceeding, what then is the school official’s proper role?
In my state, the association of school boards says only that school officials have the right to question a child about a crime because that is a violation of the school’s rules and as the “acting parent” they have to investigate to determine the level of discipline that is necessary. There is no conflict of interest, they say, because “that’s the current law of the land.” (May I say that the comments which immediately clamored for expression at this point in our conversation are best kept to myself.)
In case you don’t understand the ramifications of this, let me educate you. This means that as long as it is school hours, if your child is implicated in a crime, school officials can accuse your child of the crime, search their belongings, and interrogate your child until the end of the school day, without contacting you. They do not have to inform your child of his/her rights. They do not have to tell your child that they may have you or a lawyer present during this questioning. The school officials may lie to your child in order to coerce a confession.
To me, this is a huge conflict of interest. At this point the school official is clearly acting as an agent of law enforcement. (Unless you think a judge will believe your child‘s testimony over that of the school official.)I believe this is a direct conflict of interest with the parental role they have been temporarily granted.
Just in case you do not see the conflict here, let me revisit the in loco parentis role in a different situation. Say little Johnny or Susie fell down the stairs and broke their arm. You would expect the school to call an ambulance and then call you immediately. You do not expect them to try to set the arm themselves and send your child back to class without notifying you. School officials understand that this situation involves more than their temporary status of “in loco parentis” covers. They do not attempt to insert themselves into the role of medical practitioner without contacting you. Why then, should they think they can act as law enforcement without contacting you first? In an emergency medical situation, it is clearly understood by all that it is in the child’s best interests to have qualified medical help immediately. Why isn’t it understood that in a criminal law situation, a child’s best interests are served by having a parent and/or a lawyer present before questioning that child?
There has, unfortunately, been more than one case where students have been interrogated for hours and even unjustly expelled on the suspicion of committing serious crimes because someone told the office at school that they were talking about bombs, or explosions. (In case you don’t think that is serious let me assure you that it is. Making a false bomb threat is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000.00 in fines. Juveniles are charged the same as adults and there is a zero tolerance policy. Do you think your child should be questioned on that kind of charge without someone informing you about it first?) Let me be clear, these children didn’t make bomb threats, someone else told school officials that they had been talking about bombs or explosions. These children were interrogated, had their belongings searched and in at least two cases they were expelled when they didn’t confess under questioning.
In the interest of protecting my child’s rights, I have contacted my state’s legislators to request that they draft legislation clearly stating that a parent (or in the case of an orphan- a sympathetic adult) must be present when school officials or police liaison officers to the school are questioning a student about a crime. I believe there will be an appropriate exception for hurry cases. (credible bomb threats, etc.)
I was informed such legislation had been discussed only to be dismissed due to logistical objections from law enforcement. I said I could understand that in a case where they pick some kid up off the street and he/she doesn’t want to divulge their name or perhaps they look old enough to know their rights already, but a school must have parental contact information. That is why the legislation I am requesting is limited to students and not minors in general. The fact that it had already been discussed tells me that this type of abuse of the “in loco parentis” status is more common than it should be.
Don’t wait until this happens to your child. Protect them now. Contact your school and ask what their policy is in these circumstances. If your child is vulnerable, first tell your school officials in writing that you rescind their right to act in loco parentis in this type of situation, and then contact your legislators and demand legislation to fix it. Then do what you can to support that legislation once it is introduced."
THE MONARCHIST ADDS: Thank you for the posting Mom. As a parent of two toddlers, I'm going to - when the time is right - remember to rescind the school's right to act as parent. If ever there was a cause that needed some grassroots activism, this sounds like it.