Thursday, March 31, 2011

No Miranda Rights For School Children

Up Against the Wall Motherhugger (Image by sass_face)
The Supreme Court heard a case last week in which a 13-year-old North Carolina boy was interrogated by police, at his school, without being read his rights. Until a person is officially in custody, they are not entitled to Miranda rights, the L.A. Times reported. The police argued that the boy was not in custody.

The boy was suspected of being involved in two break-ins. He was questioned in a school conference room without being arrested. The police officer even told him he could leave at one point, indicating that he was not in custody. However, to a 13-year-old, the situation would certainly feel like an arrest and the boy confessed, as a result. 

Under such circumstances, a teenager is unlikely to feel free to get up and leave or to refuse to cooperate, particularly with police and school officials hovering over him. Even an adult under these circumstances might feel like he didn’t have any choice. However, a child has much less experience and knowledge of his rights than an adult and is much less likely to feel confident enough to assert his rights when confronted by authority figures.

Additionally, schools are increasingly starting to feel like prisons. It has become common to find armed police on campus. Indeed, many now have their own liaison officers stationed on campus. Furthermore, many schools now have metal detectors or require some form of security clearance to obtain entry. Kids are monitored by video and closed circuit cameras. Their laptops have video cameras that spy on them. Their movements are controlled on campus. For many students, the distinction between being at school and being in custody may be negligible.

Alito, Scalia and Roberts were skeptical of the arguments in defense of youth Miranda rights and seemed unlikely to rule in favor of youth rights. Nevertheless, however the Court rules, it is critical that adults educate kids about their rights and how to protect themselves from harassment by other adults such as the police, ICE, employers and child exploiters.


  1. Sandra Dawson, Esq.May 19, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    AMEN! As disgraceful as it is, parents must inform their children of their rights and how to assert those rights whenever they find themselves involved with the police (campus security or otherwise). Children should be warned of the dangers in answering even what appear to be harmless questions and taught to use the military's approach to interrogation: give only name, age, and parents telephone number.

  2. True. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans still have a naive and hopeful trust in their government, the police and the system as a whole and therefore do not see the need for this sort of education.

    Please also see my more recent post