January 24, 2008

Story ideas: Cops and students

Here's a story idea you can localize from Al Tompkin's weekday feature on the Poynter Online site (http://poynter.org/).

This is a great blog to check out for story ideas you can localize.Note all the resources the blog item links to.

Steve Klein


Cops Step Over the Line in Student Arrests

The St. Petersburg Times searched records to learn that when police enter schools and question kids about crimes, the officers often do not issue Miranda warnings or even call parents until they haul the kids off to jail:

Florida police frequently skirt state and federal laws, or violate them outright, when questioning children at school, a St. Petersburg Times investigation has found.

Often police question juvenile suspects first, and leave the Miranda warning for later. In some cases they question kids at school and take them to jail without notifying the principal. Or they interrogate them as suspects before trying to notify their parents, in violation of state law.

Even when police don't cut legal corners, experts say the push to station officers in most middle and high schools has brought a raft of unintended consequences: blurred roles, unclear legal authority and a sharp increase in school arrests for minor infractions that could be handled out of court.

Principals, the last line of defense for kids jeopardized by police misconduct, rarely challenge resource officers or other police who enter school to interrogate students.

And children are saddled with criminal records that can follow them for a lifetime.

"They won't be able to get a job, they won't be able to go to college," said Judge Robert Evans of the 9th Judicial Circuit. "They're screwed for life." Resources to Localize this StoryThe National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) has issued "assessments" of juvenile justice systems in 16 states. The group says:

The assessments provide comprehensive examinations of the systemic and institutional barriers that prevent lawyers from providing adequate legal services to indigent children within a particular state legal system. In addition to gathering general data and information about the structure of the juvenile indigent defense system, assessments examine issues related to the timing of appointment of counsel, the frequency with which children waive their right to counsel and under what conditions they do so, resource allocation, attorney compensation, supervision and training, and access to investigators, experts, social workers and support staff. Assessments also highlight promising approaches and innovative practices within the state and offer recommendations to improve weak areas.

Assessments are available for:
North Carolina

The group has a publication called "Why It's Important to Know Your Rights: A Guide to Young People's Rights in Juvenile Delinquency Court." [PDF; similar information is posted here]

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