Port Angeles School Board sends rule change back for review after debate on student rights

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School Board has sent a routine procedure change back to its policy committee for another look at a rule that some board members said they believe violates the rights of students by leaving children alone with police during interviews or interrogations.

Several board members were unhappy with a new version of a portion of Procedure 4310P and said it would leave children vulnerable to police interrogation without any adult presence or supervision when an incident takes place requiring police intervention at a school.

The portion of Procedure 4310P currently reads: “If unable to contact parents or guardians or a designated adult after a reasonable time, the officer may nevertheless proceed with the interview/interrogation if the student consents or when, in the judgment of the officer right now an emergency exists and further delay would impair the handling of that emergency. The officer shall advise and afford a student all legal rights required by law.”

The altered version leaves out the portion requiring that students be advised of all legal rights and shifts language from emergencies to investigations:

“If unable to contact parents or guardians or a designated adult after a reasonable time, the officer may nevertheless proceed with the interview/interrogation if the student consents or when, in the judgment of the officer deemed reasonably necessary to talk to the student without delay and further delay would impair the police investigation.”

“That takes the rights of the student right out the door,” Board President Steve Baxter said at last Thursday's meeting of the board.

Board members said that young teens aren't yet capable of defending their rights when being interviewed or interrogated by police.

“This allows 12- to 16-year-olds to be interrogated without a parent present. Adults under duress make bad decisions,” said Board Member Patty Happe.

Lonnie Linn noted that, later in the policy, the policy allows a child to ask a school administrator or another adult to sit in
for a parent.

As the policy is currently written, the child has to know to ask for that adult and take the initiative, board members noted.

Children, possibly as young as 12, wouldn't know they have the right to ask for an adult to be present, said board member Sarah Methner.

Board President Steve Baxter suggested the policy be reworked so the portion that allows a child to ask for an adult to be present be moved up to the section that is being changed, to make the procedure clear.

Other board members said they want to add a provision that an adult be present for any such interview without the child having to ask.

Linn said that he and other members of the policy committee had worked closely with legal counsel and the Port Angeles Police Department to draft the change in the policy that would allow police to get information quickly when the lives or safety of others may be at stake.

Linn also noted that the police can remove the child from the school and take him or her to the police department for the interview, and the school would have no control at all.

He said the law would not allow that other adult, such as an administrator, to say anything while in the room, such as advising the child during the interview.

“They are only there to observe,” he said.

Other board members noted that a supervising school official could at least give the child a warning look if they began saying something ill-advised.

The rule change will now be reviewed by the school board's policy committee again before coming back to the board.

________

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 13. 2014 7:56PM
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