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were my son's right violated? long story
Old 01-10-2014, 09:04 PM
 
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On Thursday morning, my P came and told me that my son (11 year old 5th grader) was in the office talking to a resource officer (police officer), and that she'd take over for me while I went up to her office to see what was going on. When I walked in, my son was sitting there facing a resource officer (new lady) by himself and had been crying. She told me that a parent had called and that "yesterday" my son had brought a clear capsule to school, and that it had white powder in it. She went on tell me that he had opened it up at lunch and said it was meth as others touched it. I asked my son where he'd gotten a capsule with powder in it, and he said at home on one of the bathroom counters. I asked to see the capsule, and was told that it had been thrown away. As I started to ask more questions, he started crying. I tried to rack my brain to figure out what it was, and asked why he'd bring it to school. He said he didn't know. We talked very briefly, and told him we would talk more at home, and that I'd call dad to come in, and I went back to class and trustingly left my son setting there alone with the resource officer (police officer). After I walked out, I called my husband from the school restroom, and told him to look in the bathroom to see if he could find anything, and get to school. In the mean time, I went back to class, and my P went back up to the office. I told her to do what needed to be done thinking why would my son ever do that, and that it didn't seem like him, but wanting to back the school, and thinking that maybe he could how have done something this stupid, and believed what I was told without getting the whole story from my son. My husband came in and talked to the P and the resource officer for quite a while. My son got suspended half day Thursday (we are off Fri.) and Monday and Tuesday. My husband brought him home and told him to go to his room until I got home and we could talk. Before I left, my P told me that my son had changed his story and was now telling me that he found it at school. I wasn't sure what to believe.

I got home about 5 hrs later, my husband and I talked, and were thinking of all of the privilages that we needed to revoke, and if he needed to be walked through a detention center to scare him, and those types of things.

We told my son to come out, and we set him on the couch facing us to talk. I calmly asked him why he would be so stupid as to take something like this to school. He told me he didn't then went into the whole story.

He said that as his class was walking into the lunchroom yesterday, and he was getting ready to set down at the lunch table, he saw a pill (capsule) laying there. (Other students were getting their lunch from a vendor, some getting their lunch pails out of a basket by the wall, and some getting their milk at the same time, etc.) He picked it up and as everyone was setting down, he told his friend that he just found a pill on the ground. He thought that they better throw it away, so he, and two other friends walked over to the trash can. One of the other kids took it from my son, opened the capsule, and was dumping the contents into the trash can when a 4th kid (friend) said hey, what is that meth? About that time a lunchroom lady came over to see what was going on. (This lady was my son's tutor last year, so she knows him.) My son told her that he just found it by the lunchroom table, on the floor, as he was walking in to set down, and that they were throwing it into the trash. She said oh, that it was probably just a vitamin, and they went back to begin eating. I asked him then, why would he EVER tell the resource officer (police officer) that he brought it from home.

He told me that he did tell her the same story he was telling us, several times times in fact, and that she kept telling him that she didn't believe him, and that he wasn't telling the truth, and asking him what the capsule was, and where he go it. He told me that after about the 3rd time of her saying she didn't believe him, he finally said he got it from home. He also asked to be able to speak with me again, before his dad got there, and the resource officer told him no he couldn't. (THE P never told me this version of the story. Only the first version.) That evening, after hearing my son's story, I texted the P, and told her what my son had said, and that the lunchroom lady could verify his story, and so could the kids. She texted back she had talked to them all, and the problem remained that:
1. My son changed his story, and why wouldn't he tell the truth when I came in.
2. No one saw him pick the capsule up.
3. No one knows what was in the capsule.

I was starting to get pissed about this by this time, because I realized he'd been coerced into a confession of what the RO (police officer)wanted to hear, when he was setting alone with her for great periods of time. I told her thanks for texting back, and to have a good weekend.

My husband and I now feel like our son was left alone to be interrogated by a new resource officer (police officer), without the P being present the whole time, only intermittantly, and that neither parent was present with him during the whole thing. I'm in AZ. The resource officer made a point of telling me that all prescriptions need to be in a marked bottle....duh...knew that, and I told her that. She made a point of telling my hubby that my son could have been taken to jail depending on what type of pill it was. Oh, then towards the end of the day after kids knew that my son had been suspended two kids supposedly went up and said that my son was trying to snort the powder in the lunch room. My husband told the P, when she called him, that that was a pretty big detail to leave out of the whole thing, and that he didn't believe it, and that why would kids wait until the end of the day to tell something huge like that.


We both believe my son's story. We feel he was coersed into changing his story and that a parent and P should have been present during the entire "interrogation." BTW...the other kid that opened up the capsule to empty it didn't get suspended or anything. Maybe that's because his dad's a cop.

My husband is going to school Monday morning to ask for the suspension to be reversed on the basis that we didn't find anything at home resembling this, (vitamin, over the counter, or prescription) and also that just because no one saw him pick it up, didn't mean he didn't pick it up, and if he indeed picked it up, then how would he know what was in it. Also, that nothing had happened to the other kid who touched it and that we felt he was coersed into changing his story, and that one of us parents should have been there during the whole thing, and that if it wasn't reversed he was calling the Az. Dept of Ed. to see what he could do. (I'd hate for the word "law suit" to come up. They'd find a way to let me go, so I'm letting my husband handle the whole thing. But, I'm thinking they might reluctantly reverse the suspension after hearing the magic words. They have on other things in the past when it's been mentioned.)

I talk to my kids all the time about drugs, and smoking, and how dumb it is, etc, and about the supposed snorting thing. He said mom, how dumb do you think I am? That's stupid. He said he knew that. I also told him that if he is telling the truth, then don't EVER let anyone intimidate him into changing his story. Always, always, always tell the truth.

Was my son's rights violated? Suggestions? What would you do?



Last edited by desert flower; 01-10-2014 at 11:12 PM..
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:25 PM
 
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I would say it is iffy. If he was at a police station or talking to a police officer and a parent was not there my understanding is it is pretty cut and dry the parent needs to be there. In schools there are lawsuits which basically say to keep the safety of the school the admin can question students pretty freely. I do not know what a resource officer is, if it is a police officer, I would want to know why the hell my kid is being questioned by a police officer before being questioned by the school administrator and calling me in from a classroom in the building.

I would be pissed also. I think it is a good learning experience for your son.
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:58 PM
 
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A resource officer is a police officer whose main duty is to be available on school campuses to help with issues that arise. The one we had prior, great guy, retired recently. The new gal (whose been a policeman for quite a while) just started a month or two ago. She oversees our primary, intermediate, middle school and high school campuses. Again, we are a pretty small district, with about 1,800 kids total. I'm not sure, but I think that my P was there for awhile when the police officer got there, and then went to get the kids involved, besides my son, from classrooms, who were involved, etc. I just feel like it's being blown up because a parent called and complained, and it's being pinned on my son.

Last edited by desert flower; 01-10-2014 at 11:14 PM..
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Old 01-10-2014, 11:53 PM
 
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Ok, it looks like your main "lawsuit" issue is that you believe that you and the principal should have been present during the questioning of your son. I tried to look up the legalities around this and found this, from Illinois:

http://www.iasb.com/law/ICSAGuidelinesInterviews.pdf

"Where acting on their own initiative and authority to further a proper educational environment at the school or at the request of school personnel (as opposed to acting upon the request of outside law enforcement authorities), SROs who are investigating a school related incident or any incident which may have potential consequences for the safety of the students or employees at the school may interview students without obtaining permission from parents.7

Examples of incidents which may have potential consequences for the safety of students or employees at the school include the following:
fights between students that may result in retaliation at school;
threats made by a student against another student or employee at the school;
gang related offenses such as assault, battery, and intimidation;
possessing drugs or weapons while on school property."


I am not a lawyer, but I do know that generally speaking, laws around this kind of thing vary depending on the state you live in. I would guess that there is some kind of written policy that your district has in regards to the SROs. I would start by finding this policy and seeing what it is.
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Old 01-11-2014, 04:59 AM
 
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I just spoke with DH about this. He is a principal at a JR/SR high in IN. Our laws may be different and the ages of kids are different (he has 7th -12th). He says in our state it is legal for a SRO (School resource officer) to question a student without the principal or VP present. In our state the SRO operates out of the school and becomes almost like an additional administrator. In our state a SRO receives special training for their role in the school setting. In our buildings, the SRO knows the kids and usually develops a relationship with them just like another administrator would. I noticed that you said yours was new. However, he would never allow a city or state police officer to question a student without himself or a parent present. As previous posters mentioned, the laws may be different from state to state.

And I'm only talking about the laws. I don't know your son or the situation beyond what you described. I am sorry that you are going through this.

BTW - I am kind of surprised that there is an SRO at the elementary. Is this a corporation SRO that travels from building to building?


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Old 01-11-2014, 06:20 AM
 
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We have SRO's at all of our schools and the one at our school would not be involved in disciplining children. She is there for safety only and also interacts with the children in a positive manner. She would never interrogate one of our children. We are lower elementary.
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Old 01-11-2014, 07:00 AM
 
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I don't know what the legalities are, but hiring a lawyer is expensive. At least this suspension won't affect his future career. He has learned something important from the situation.

I had something similar happen with my dd where she took the fall for a group of people because how she answered questions. When I look back, I would handle it completely differently, as you probably will think back similarly. It is a shame that some of our school systems are more interested in putting someone at fault and punishing than they are about finding out the truth and teaching kids right and wrong.

I would instruct my child to not talk to anyone about anything unless I or dad was there. We assume that others have our kids best interests at heart, but in reality only we can do that. I don't want my kids talking about any serious issue unless I am there. (Of course, now mine are over 18 and better get a lawyer if they get in any additional scrapes).
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:03 AM
 
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From what I remember when my DS was in trouble in high school, students don't have any rights when at school.
Hope it was a learning experience for him, never kid about drugs because there are drugs at every school. And it is taken seriously.

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Old 01-11-2014, 08:20 AM
 
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In my state I believe it is legal for students to be talked to by SRO without other admin present and clearly does not need a parent present.

I would be pissed, but more so over the fact that nobody else got in trouble and that there is an adult who can verify some of the story.

Had your son quietly picked it up and thrown it out or brought it to adult this would never have happened. Big hard lesson to learn!
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Old 01-11-2014, 10:36 AM
 
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I know our SRO has talked to our students when there is an issue and parents haven't been informed.

I would be pissed and I would have DH go in and talk to the principal about the situation but a three day suspension isn't going to hurt him too much and he has now learned a hard lesson. I would tell him to not talk to anyone in the future without one of you guys there.

It's a bummer the officer didn't believe him and get info from the adult witness. I'd probably ask the P to have a chat with the SRO about that.


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Old 01-11-2014, 11:07 AM
 
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Quote:
a three day suspension isn't going to hurt him too much
No, but the other students are talking about him, and spreading false information about him. That could hang on for a long time, sad to say. I don't know what you should do, but I'm sorry you and your son had this happen!
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Old 01-11-2014, 12:10 PM
 
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I am weighing back in on this after sleeping on it. You asked "what would you do?" At the very least, your son lied to a police officer. That is a very serious thing and deserves a suspension. It's also a very good learning experience for your son. He should know to ALWAYS tell the truth when being accused of something, and do not let someone (the police, anyone) talk you into admitting something that you didn't do, no matter how much pressure they apply. It is a powerful lesson to him and I would impress on him that the suspension is for the lying.

I would not be threatening a lawsuit nor demanding that the suspension be dropped. I would probably want the principal to have a meeting together with your husband, the lunch lady, and the kids who were witnesses to the situation, to clear up what really happened, though, just for the record.

I would accept the suspension on the grounds that your son lied to the SRO about where the capsule came from.
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Old 01-11-2014, 01:52 PM
 
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The SRO is standing in for the police. It's not like your son was a K student. He's in 5th grade and should know better. I can understand he might have been scared but in all honesty, WHY would he change his story like that?

I have to agree with teenytiny....ask for a meeting with everyone and accept the suspension. Talk to your son again about telling the truth.
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Sorry for you!
Old 01-11-2014, 02:03 PM
 
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I'm so sorry for your troubles. I did a quick google search and was fascinated to find that the laws seem to differ depending on the school and state. In NC, the law basically is that a student cannot be interrogated by a resource officer unless they have been read their Miranda rights. There are several rights that are "suspended" at the school door, but I don't think your right to freedom from self-incrimination is one of them. So, to answer your initial question, yes, I think your son's rights were probably violated.

But I also agree with the previous posters that I would let the suspension stand, essentially as a lesson about lying to the police. And unless you want to lose your job, I'd drop it from there....

Again, sorry for your troubles!
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Old 01-11-2014, 04:40 PM
 
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It is never, ever legal in any state to question a child without a parent/guardian present. Of course, it happens all the time. Children just assume they have to talk because it is someone in authority. Parents have the right to protect their children from such over zealous authoritarians. I would be ticked for sure.
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Old 01-11-2014, 04:44 PM
 
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Wow, what a mess. Two thoughts:

1) To me it sounds like your son was bullied into changing his story, because she didn't believe the first one.

2) Let the suspension stand, but be sure to let DS know not to ever change his story, no matter what. It was a kid move on DS's part to not take the pill to the teacher/supervisor, so I probably won't be overly harsh with him, but I would stress that anytime he finds anything of the iffy side, turn it in.

As for a lawsuit, if you're in a union check with their lawyers or even with your union to see what the rules are
about this type of thing. I don't think it's worth a lawsuit, personally. And never leave your son alone with the SRO or the principal. Take him with you until all parties are present.

(((Hugs)))
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As presented, I don't think he lied
Old 01-11-2014, 04:50 PM
 
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It's one thing for the boy to say "No, I didn't bring it from home", if in fact that was what happened - versus caving in to pressure and agreeing with an adult who was an authority figure and pressuring him to give a certain story. What young child (or even some adults for that matter) would have the guts to stand up to an officer if he / she kept badgering and saying "I don't believe you" to him? If indeed he's telling the truth, I would push for revocation of the suspension, even it it meant losing my job. After all, family is what's most important, isn't it? What lesson will she teach her son if she let's him think that her job takes priority over him? Yes, I realize that we aren't all in a position to just give up our salaries, but I couldn't continue to work somewhere knowing that my son was thrown under the bus. Yes, there are lessons this young boy needs to learn, but they aren't lessons that I think he could have known in advance to avoid this. Now he will know, unfortunately, how to manage these scenarios. In my opinion, we cannot reasonably expect a 10 year old to have been gutsy enough to tell an SRO, flat out, the he or she is the one essentially lying by pressuring him. Good luck to you as you try to sort this out. Please let us know the outcome. I'll be thinking of you.
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Truman's mom....and EllaKate....
Old 01-11-2014, 08:47 PM
 
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The SRO goes mainly to the high school, and middle school, and isn't on any of our campuses full time. Only when needed.


I could accept that my son was suspended (at least a little bit more) because he "lied" (coersed in changing story) to a police officer, but that's not why he was suspended.


I do appreciate all you your input though! Again, thank you for caring. I love my PT family.
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Old 01-12-2014, 06:48 AM
 
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Why was he suspended?

Children don't typically get suspended for changing their story. The list if suspensions would be a mile long at any muddle school if that was the case!

If he got suspended for bringing drugs from home, they should have clear evidence that is where it cane from. If he got suspended for being in possession if drugs, he was.
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been thinking a lot about this...
Old 01-12-2014, 07:55 AM
 
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If I recall, you said that your son was called to the office the day AFTER the incident, correct? In which case, no one actually has evidence that he ever even had the "drugs" on him or near him. It's all circumstantial based on one child's report to home. Yes, we know he did touch a pill, and he put it in the trash, but the only adult who witnessed this didn't chose to report it at the time, which suggests that she didn't find it concerning (we could debate all day whether or not she should have but that's not the point). She's the key to this, I think. If she didn't report it, clearly it played out as your son eventually described. I think she needs to come forward and stand up for your son. She was the adult in that situation and didn't tell him to go to the office in the moment. Any parent could call a day later and say something happened to get another child suspended. Without proof (or a credible witness) it loses its sticking power, in my opinion.

Yes, the boy was wrong, but I don't think he deserves to have this punishment, especially if others were there and touched it too. I think that his "lying" is understandable given the nature of the situation and the authority figure. I truly hope this works out for the best. I can only imagine how upset you've been this weekend. Maybe if he described specifically what the capsule looked like, someone might come forward and take ownership of it as it is likely a supplement, probiotic or some other harmless thing. I bet a teacher had it in a pocket and it slipped out.
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Old 01-12-2014, 05:19 PM
 
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We haven't even signed any paperwork yet....but the reason we are being told is: he had it and....

1. no one saw him pick it up
2. no one knows what it was
3. he changed his story
We are going to be presented with his suspension papers tomorrow. Do we have to sign them? Can we attach a rebuttal?

Also, if he is getting suspended for being in possession of it, then another child had it, opened it, and nothing happened to him.
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