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Miranda Rights and Students with Special Needs

Charles Fox:

Although I am a special education attorney and not a criminal defense attorney, occasionally I receive phone calls from parents who are angry and concerned because their child has been questioned or searched by school officials for disciplinary infractions or worse. Occasionally these incidents involve school resource officers or police, particularly when drugs or alcohol are involved. Fundamentally, these parents want to know:  were my child’s legal rights violated?  Can my child be questioned by the school or police without my knowledge or consent?  Can my child or his or her possessions be searched? This issue comes up a lot and all too often with serious consequences for the student. Schools play on their authority and make false promises to induce "confessions" even from student with language-based disabilities. Criminalization of school students especially those with special needs is large issue that has not been effectively addressed.

Really great suggestions in this post. In dealing with students with disabilities, one of the things we have to think about is what the purpose of the discipline is. Are we trying to punish or teach a child? I'd argue that all discipline in school should be done with the intent to teach the children correct behavior. Zero Tolerance policies really are where this comes into play. If the administrators are using discipline as a way to teach rather than a way to punish, they will likely look at the situation and make more appropriate-for-the-child determinations.

Mr. Fox gave some great recommendations when I interviewed him for the transformative principal podcast.