I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Law Enforcement Investigators Questioning Students at School Part IV

This is a subject I have discussed numerous times at length at School Board meetings and also on my blog here, here, and here.

Parents need to be engaged before their young school aged kids are questioned at school for law enforcement purposes, and students should not be yanked out of class by police for non-school related matters, except in certain limited circumstances. These are two issues which I feel need to be put into our policy in Escambia County. Many districts around the country are modifying their policies to delineate and define when students can be questioned at school by police for non-school related, law enforcement purposes as well as protocols for parental notification prior to such questionings. I have put together a list of some policies from around the state and nation side by side with Escambia County’s current weak policy.

I really like the way our neighbors in the Santa Rosa County School District define this process in their policy—and I’d be happy if we could mirror their language—although I like the Chesapeake, Virginia, policy even better! See some different policies here.

So, as I said I would do, early last month I met with the Sheriff’s Captain of the School Resource Officers and also a staff attorney from ECSO. I felt like the meeting went well.

I brought the initial draft policy I asked our attorney to write for Escambia Schools, which was built on a very well thought-out, well written statewide guideline from the Illinois Council of School Attorneys. The goal was to find what parts of this policy were disagreeable to the Sheriff, and then work toward a compromise. At this hour long meeting that occurred on March 7th, I felt really confident that we were at the precipice of the collaborative development of a better policy for Escambia Schools.

On March 27th, I received this response to the meeting from Sheriff Morgan. His response was mailed on March 15th, to the wrong address, and thus I did not receive it until 12 days after it was mailed.

The response from the Sheriff was somewhat terse, and it subtly hints that I somehow seek to subvert the school board’s decision making process by developing a policy on my own without input from the other board members.

This is simply not the case, though, and I pointed this out in

 my response to the Sheriff.

I’ve talked about this issue with my fellow board members at open, advertised meetings on October 13, 2011, and also on November 9,, 2011. At the November 9, 2011 meeting, I volunteered for and stated my intention to work independently with the Sheriff’s office to draft a better policy that everyone could be happy with—with the idea that such a jointly developed policy would then be brought back to the board for their input, comment, modification (s) and-- ultimately-- their action. This is all reflected in the posted minutes from this November 9th school board meeting.

So instead of addressing the issue of crafting a better policy jointly, the letter from Sheriff Morgan to me simply restates the Sheriff’s original position—being that he is fine with the policy as-is---the Status Quo.

So, once again I’ll be bringing this issue back to the full board for discussion. I believe this is a worthy discussion to have—as on the one hand we are always seeking more parental engagement for school related matters, however our current policy on student treatment by police at school leaves these same parents as an afterthought---disengaged.

If the full board feels there is no need to make any adjustments to our current policy, even in light of recent Supreme Court Rulings that speak to this issue and also after looking at what other districts like Santa Rosa are doing—then I will stand down on this issue.

If, however, the board wants to get the policy updated, I’m ready to work together to get a better policy put into our rules.

I predict we’ll know what direction the board wants to go on this after next Thursday’s discussion workshop.

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