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Ely
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 89091
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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Hello, My question concerns the rights of students in public

Resolved Question:

Hello,

My question concerns the rights of students in public school. A student that goes to school with my son who is in the 6th grade, complained to school officials that he was texting her too much. They had been friends and I suspect her parents who are very religious put a stop to the relationship. He said he ceased communicating with him very suddenly and he was crushed.

My question concerns the actions of the school officials; The Principal, and Vice Principal called my son into the office and accused him of "harassing" the young lady, threatened to involve law enforcement, and then had him sign an agreement not to contact the young lady. While the school officials were in contact with the parents of the young lady, they never contacted my wife or myself.

I feel like the school officials violated my son constitutional rights. It seems to me that because of the allegation of a crime (under Revised Code of Washington), and the school officials acting in their official capacity, the "agreement" that they had my son sign is in effect a self incriminating statement taken without notice of rights, and through intimidation.

Is my take on this correct or am I being overly concerned? What recourse might I have?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
Hello, my name is Ely. Welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (1) this is general information only, not legal advice; and (2) my function is to give you honest information and not necessarily to tell you what you wish to hear. Note: there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies.

I am sorry for your situation Can you please tell me:

1) Is this a private school or a public school?
2) Was there a police officer present?

This is not an answer, but an Information Request. I need this information to answer your question. Please reply, so I can answer your question. Thank you in advance.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

It is a public school in Olympia Washington. There was not a police officer present, although the vice principal said that he would later involve the police.

Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
D,

Thank you for your explanation, D. Apologies in advance for the momentary wait while I am typing out the answer...
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

No problem I'll wait

Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
My apologies for the wait.

On this website, I do not always get to give good news, and I am afraid that this is one of these times.

First of all, understand that the school has the right to discipline students. The rationale of these cases is that, where police are not involved, the discipline and even searches is on the school officials' "parental" duty to maintain discipline in the schools. Kuehn v. Renton School Dist., 694 P. 2d 1078 - Wash: Supreme Court 1985.

The QUESTION is in what capacity the school officials were acting at the time of the action. Were they acting as law enforcement officers or as in loco parentis (substitute) parents?

"Unlike the case of a criminal investigation by school officials where there is a question as to whether the officials are acting in the best interests of the students, the school and parents in the present case were in fact charged with onerous parental-like responsibilities." Id.

As such, then what they did was arguably within the law (even though reprehensible, arguably), since this was not a criminal matter, but a school discipline matter.

Is my take on this correct or am I being overly concerned?

I am afraid that they did act within the law arguably, although your concern IS understandable as any parent's would be.

What recourse might I have?

Even though they did not overstep the legal boundary, you may demand a HEARING with the principal and let them know that you feel that this was blown out of proportion and you would demand to be let known next time this happens. Very often, schools - afraid of litigation - agree to simply bury the matter.

Finally, the agreement he signed is not criminal in nature - this is simply a school disciplinary action, such as a "demerit." It will not be part of any criminal record, etc.

Surely, you prefer that I tell the truth rather than what you wish to hear. Because it reflects very poorly on me unless you press one of the top three faces, keep this in mind when rating my and please do not punish me for being honest. I understand that this may not be easy to hear, and I empathize.

IMPORTANT: Please use REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE my answer when we are finished. Kindly rate my answer as one of the top three faces before submitting the rating, because this is how I get credit for my time with you. Rating my answer the bottom two faces does not give me credit and reflects negatively on me as an expert, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith. Do not worry, you may always ask follow ups free after rating. My ultimate goal is your complete satisfaction.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Your answer makes sense; just a little more clarification please.


 


First of all, understand that the school has the right to discipline students.



Understood, however, none of the alleged harassment took place on school grounds or during school. Again, I may be misreading this, but it would seem that while in this case the school definitely has a duty to "report" the allegation, as it was reported to them, I am still unsure how they have any authority to discipline, for actions to took place outside of their purview?


 


The QUESTION is in what capacity the school officials were acting at the time of the action. Were they acting as law enforcement officers or as in loco parentis (substitute) parents?


 


Yes, that does seem to be the question. Does the fact that they accused my son of committing a crime (harassment), and not simply a rule, or policy change the capacity that they were acting in; inst this why we have school resource police officers?



Finally, the agreement he signed is not criminal in nature - this is simply a school disciplinary action, such as a "demerit." It will not be part of any criminal record, etc.


 


I understand, but concern is that if at some point the young lady or her parents tried to pursue legal action that this document could somehow be used as evidence of guilt.


 


When a party acts "In Local Parentis", when and in what capacity must the actual parents be notified? We were never informed abount any of this, we got the story of our son when we noticed that his otherwise stellar grades were suffering.


 


Finally, Ely my wish was for the truth, and that you have given me I would not hold it against you. Your answer's have thoughtful and thorough and you will be rated positively.

Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
D,

Your answer makes sense; just a little more clarification please.

By all means - surely.

First of all, understand that the school has the right to discipline students. Understood, however, none of the alleged harassment took place on school grounds or during school. Again, I may be misreading this, but it would seem that while in this case the school definitely has a duty to "report" the allegation, as it was reported to them, I am still unsure how they have any authority to discipline, for actions to took place outside of their purview?

If both students go to the same school, then it is within the school's purview WHILE THEY ARE IN SCHOOL, just like it would be if they got into a fight after school, for example.

The QUESTION is in what capacity the school officials were acting at the time of the action. Were they acting as law enforcement officers or as in loco parentis (substitute) parents? Yes, that does seem to be the question. Does the fact that they accused my son of committing a crime (harassment), and not simply a rule, or policy change the capacity that they were acting in; inst this why we have school resource police officers?

No, this does not change anything. The fact is, the police was not called and all this was simply an administrative school action and not a criminal action (despite the threats).

Finally, the agreement he signed is not criminal in nature - this is simply a school disciplinary action, such as a "demerit." It will not be part of any criminal record, etc. I understand, but concern is that if at some point the young lady or her parents tried to pursue legal action that this document could somehow be used as evidence of guilt.

Maybe so. But, even if she does, then his counsel in his defense should be able to retort that record, explaining it away as something signed by a scared boy faced with a roomful of adults threatening school and legal action. Hopefully, the Jury will then not give that "confession" much credence.

When a party acts "In Local Parentis", when and in what capacity must the actual parents be notified? We were never informed abount any of this, we got the story of our son when we noticed that his otherwise stellar grades were suffering.

There is no mandate to notify the parents unless/until there is a criminal action pending (the police have been called), or, if the school feels it necessary beforehand. In other words, they do not have to call you for every time a student gets into trouble - usually they do - but they do not have to.

Finally, Ely my wish was for the truth, and that you have given me I would not hold it against you. Your answer's have thoughtful and thorough and you will be rated positively.

Your words are very kind - thank you.

IMPORTANT: Please use REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE my answer when we are finished. Kindly rate my answer as one of the top three faces before submitting the rating, because this is how I get credit for my time with you. Rating my answer the bottom two faces does not give me credit and reflects negatively on me as an expert, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith. Do not worry, you may always ask follow ups free after rating. My ultimate goal is your complete satisfaction.
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 89091
Experience: Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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Ely
Ely
Counselor at Law
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Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.