Father Sues School After It Brings In Cops To Question His Son About Drawing Of A Person Being Hanged
from the F_CKIN_-ST_PID dept
Maybe if schools stop handing misbehaving students over to police officers, aggrieved parents won’t be nearly as aggrieved… or so likely to sue. Schools are publicly funded already, but that’s no reason to keep dipping into homeowners’ wallets to pay out settlements for schools’ bad decisions.
The very short background on this particular lawsuit is this (via Courtroom News Service):
B.R.K., a 13 year-old student at Raleigh Hills in Beaverton, OR was suspended after his teacher found his drawing of a person being hanged. The subject matter is no doubt disturbing, although plenty of rounds of Hangman have been played at school without issue. Since the suit doesn’t dispute the disciplinary actions the school took (a one-day suspension), I’ll withhold an opinion on a drawing being an offense worthy of suspension.
The school chose to file the student’s drawing under the ultimate vagary: Threats/Menacing/Hate Lists. But this policy specifically requires a “word” or “action,” of which a drawing is neither and B.R.K.’s doodle would need to place another person in “fear of serious imminent injury.” Whether or not this designation was justified is open to speculation.
But that’s neither here nor there, at least according to the filing by B.R.K.’s father, Robert Bernard Keller. His allegations are of civil rights violations, all occurring after the suspension was served and B.R.K. was cleared to return to school.
The drawing incident began April 30th. His parents were notified and B.R.K. served his suspension. A school psychologist performed a “risk assessment” on B.R.K. and cleared him to return to school. His parents were present for this “risk assessment,” in agreement to the mother’s request that they be notified (and hopefully present) for any meetings/questioning stemming from this incident. All seemed well and good until B.R.K. related to his parents that, later in the day, he was pulled from class and interrogated by Beaverton police officers.
After the parents left, Raleigh Hills called in officers of the Beaverton Police Department to interview B.R.K. without notifying the parents. At no time before or during the interview were the parents notified by Raleigh Hills or the Beaverton Police. Only after the fact did the parents learn of the police interrogation. No criminal charge was filed nor was a petition filed with the department of human services. As a direct and foreseeable result of the events that transpired during this incident, B.R.K. has suffered emotional damages.
Keller alleges Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations, as well as emotional distress, false imprisonment and failure to supervise. Whether these will all hold up remains to be seen, but it would appear that Raleigh Hills violated its own policies by hosting an impromptu interrogation.
Early on in the school policy manual, the following is stated:
Unless an emergency situation exists relating to health or safety, the student shall receive prior notice of suspendable conduct as set forth herein and pursuant to District policy, specification of individual charges against the student, and an opportunity to present his/her view of the alleged misconduct. The suspending administrator may postpone these procedures if there is a risk that harm will occur if the suspension does not take place immediately. In all cases, an administrator will notify the parent/guardian by letter and, when possible, by telephone, and the procedure for reinstatement will be explained.
It would appear that parents are to be notified during every step of the process. For the most part, the school did this — right up until it decided to bring the police in to “interview” a student whom its own psychologist had determined wasn’t a threat and could return to general population.
Even if there’s a little vagueness in the above statement, the school policy regarding the use of law enforcement is incredibly specific.
Referral to Law Enforcement
If it is necessary for law enforcement officers to interview, detain, or take into custody a student, the principal or his/her designee will follow regulations to insure compliance with Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS 162.245, 162.325). [The cited laws refer only to assisting law enforcement and not hindering prosecution. Neither have anything to do with the treatment of minors by law enforcement or rights retained by students.]
School personnel are responsible for cooperating with, and making it possible for, law enforcement officials to interview students on school premises. It is the responsibility of a law enforcement officer, who wishes to interrogate a student at school for law enforcement purposes, to contact that student’s parent or guardian in order to obtain advance authorization for the interview.
The district policy is even more definitive.
It is the responsibility of a law enforcement officer who wishes to interview a student at school for law enforcement purposes to contact that student’s parent or guardian in order to obtain advance authorization for the interview. For this purpose, school personnel shall provide the telephone number of a student’s parent or guardian to a requesting law enforcement officer…
There is an exception, but it doesn’t fit this situation.
If the student’s parent or guardian refuses to consent, the interview shall not take place unless the law enforcement officer represents that emergency or exigent circumstances justify an immediate interview. In such circumstances, before the interview occurs the law enforcement officer shall complete and sign a “No Consent/Interview Conducted Form,” indicating that the parent or guardian refused to consent, and that emergency or exigent circumstances required an immediate interview of the student at the sole discretion of the law enforcement officer.
The Beaverton Police Dept. is also named in the suit. According to policy, the PD should have contacted the parents prior to this interview. Either way you look at it, someone should have talked to B.R.K.’s parents before putting the student in a room with police officers. The district’s policy is just as narrow, stating there needs to be a form filled out stating the exigent circumstances that led to the consent-less interview. Keller’s filing doesn’t indicate he ever received this after-the-fact notification or, indeed, any awareness of this requirement.
Keller’s allegations also state that the school has a “custom and policy” of seizing children from classrooms and “subjecting them to custodial police interrogations,” so it would appear this isn’t the first time Raleigh Hills has violated its own (and the district’s) policies. The fact that police were involved after the student was cleared by staff gives this allegation credence. A school used to turning over nearly every discipline problem to local cops wouldn’t think twice about bringing in law enforcement after the sentence has been served and the child interviewed by school staff.
If this ends up costing the school (Keller is asking for $100,000 in damages), it has no one to blame but itself. The policies are in place for exactly this reason — to prevent the abuse of students’ rights. But the school chose — along with the Beaverton PD — to violate its own policies, along with someone else’s rights.