Note: This information is from our manual, Discipline in Public Schools.
Yes. Schools can report crimes committed by students.
These days, many schools have security officers that are on campus every day. Some districts have School Resource Officers who are commissioned police officers assigned to work on school campuses.
A School Resource Officer might be involved from the beginning, or might be called in if a principal or other school administrator believes a crime has been committed.
In some cases, a referral to police or the prosecutor’s office may be made later, sometime after the incident occurred.
If a student is accused of assaulting or harassing someone at school (another student, a teacher or other staff person), then that person might contact the police directly to make a complaint.
If you hear that an incident has been referred to the police, it is important to seek legal advice to understand what the consequences might be for your child.
Help your Child Know their Rights in order to Protect their Rights
Students’ rights in relation to police and juvenile courts help protect students from unfair or unreasonable punishments. In order to stand up for their rights, students need to know what they are.
For information about the rights of youth in contacts with police and in the juvenile justice system, check out Teamchild’s graphic guides and short videos: https://teamchild.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Washington-State-Know-Your-Rights-Graphic-Guide-2013.pdf
If your child is charged with a crime, they will have the right to have a public defender or other criminal defense attorney to represent them.
Be sure to encourage your child to talk to their defense attorney to understand the possible consequences of the charge, and to understand how a school discipline case might affect the criminal case. If a student makes statements to someone at school, including a school principal or a discipline hearing officer, those statements could be used in a criminal case.
That does not mean a student has to give up the right to challenge school discipline, but it is very important to talk with an attorney if there might be criminal charges involved before going to a discipline hearing.
Make sure the defense attorney has information about any special services your child receives at school. For example, if your child has a plan for accommodations, special education services, or behavior interventions, that may provide important context and could influence whether your child is charged or not.
If my child is convicted or found guilty of committing a crime, do they still have the right to an education?
Yes. Even if a student commits a crime, they still have the right to an education. A youth in juvenile detention has the right to receive an education while they are there. If they are not in detention, then it is up to the school district to make sure they have access to educational services.
If my child is facing charges in court, can the school say my child is expelled until the court process is over?
No. The school cannot say your child is suspended or expelled until the court process is over because there is no guarantee when a court process will be finished. The school has to set a specific end date for any suspension or expulsion, and it cannot be longer than the number of days in a semester or trimester. If the school believes your child would still pose a threat at the end of the expulsion, they can petition to extend the expulsion (see the section on Long-term Suspensions and Expulsions at p. 29 for more information).
Regardless of what happens with the court process, your child still has the right to an education. If they are at home (not in detention) while the court process is moving forward, the district must make sure they have access to appropriate educational services. If they are in juvenile detention, they should be getting educational services there.