The wisdom of my friend and colleague, Larry McDougal, bears repeating:
A school principal is undisputedly an agent of the State of Texas. Yet the rules that apply to police officers interrogating your child do not apply to school principals. Even if the police officer detains your child and takes them to the principal, as long as the police officer leaves the room prior to the interrogation by the school principal, the rights granted to any person when interrogated by the police do not apply. In the Matter of V.P., 55 S.W.3d 25. This includes the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. So even though the principal is an agent of the State, they are not law enforcement and the questioning by a school principal is not a custodial interrogation as it would have been had a police officer conducted the questioning of your child.
So now school administrators and police officers are trained to have the principal take all statements or confessions from the child to avoid the constitutional protections afforded all persons when questioned by law enforcement. They will question your child, without notice to you, and anything your child says can be used against them in court. It is a sad day when our schools and law enforcement work together with the intent to deny our children their rights provided to them by both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions along with the Texas Family Code.
No one wants to teach his or her children to lie. Yet parents are forced with the reality of teaching their children not to cooperate with school administrators and law enforcement.
Your children, once they reach the age of 10 in Texas, must know to never admit to anything that they may have done. They must learn to stand up to authority by demanding that their parents be present, that they want an attorney, and they want to remain silent. Children must learn to hold their ground despite being threatened by the principal (or even a teacher or counselor). It is the American school system that has forced parents into this position.
It was not this way 30 years ago. It does not take much to get a young child to admit to something that they did not do.
Overall, this is one of the saddest consequences of our “tough on crime” mentality. Recalling the practices of the past decades, I remember prosecutors teaching law enforcement to “request” interviews and “release” the child after the interview – even if he intended to arrest. The “release” was to show that the child was not “in custody” and therefore the special protections requiring a trip to a magistrate before a statement could be made would not be triggered. Now, we have gone even further to suggest that the school administrators should do the questioning so as not to trigger the constitutional protections afforded to all.
Of even greater concern is that teachers and school administrators are now being offered and taught the infamous Reid technique: a police interrogation technique focused on breaking down the subject and extracting a confession.
Yes, you heard that correctly. Teachers and school administrators are now being taught to extract confessions under a technique that has been charactered by psychologists and judges as coercive and liable to produce false confessions – especially when used on juveniles who are highly suggestible and more easily manipulated.
The Reid Technique taught in schools is composed of three steps:
- an investigative component, in which you gather evidence;
- a behavioral analysis, in which you interview a suspect to determine whether he or she is lying; and
- a nine-step interrogation, a nonviolent but psychologically rigorous process that is designed, according to Reid’s workbook, “to obtain an admission of guilt.”
Even though taught to educators and administrators, outside a law enforcement arena, the video segments to demonstrate behaviors and questioning involved serious crimes such as murder and rape. The materials given to educators refer to suspects or subjects – never students or kids.
Not surprisingly, one of the first things administrators will do is take away the student’s cell phone to prevent calls or texts to parents. Teaching educators to “dabble” in law enforcement is just as dangerous as teaching them to “dabble” in psychology or other sciences. When they get it wrong (not “if” but “when”), we will have false confessions taking children down the prison pipeline with little hope of stopping.
And, why? We already have entire law enforcement agencies created and ran by our school districts. Officers are already on campus or very near campus to respond. Seems one or the other simply isn’t necessary. Ah, but then again, if we relied on our law enforcement officers, we would have to respect the child’s constitutional and statutory rights. And, don’t even get me started on the whole “alternative school” mess…