Should a kid be allowed counsel when in the Principal's office?

Let’s say your kid gets summoned to the principals office and while they are there, are accused of some crime (ex. stealing, making threats, drugs). The principal or others start asking questions.

Is that kid required to say anything? Do they have the right to request a parents involvement?

What I’ve heard is too many times kids have been accused of something and say the wrong thing or do something stupid and get into worse trouble. Teenagers do that. I’ve told my son to 1. stay out of trouble and 2. if he is called to the office and they start asking questions he is to refuse to answer anything but to call me, his mother, or his grandpa (an attorney). and 3. if he didnt follow rule #1 he is in even worse trouble.

On the one hand, I agree with the OP.

On the other hand, this is really GD territory, not GQ. Mods!

Age old question, parents rights over their children vs the teacher’s or principals. Also can you compel one to talk, and what if they refuse as you actually can not make them do so. All great GD topics.

Moderator Action

This is more debatable than factual.

Moving thread from General Questions to Great Debates.

You are confusing being called to the principal’s office with being place under arrest by law enforcement. Different legalities apply.

You have a point…but wouldn’t you get sick of being called to the principal’s office for each little thing? Why not let the school do what they need to do? Especially if they actually catch your kid, then they have to wait for you to come before they can resolve it.

I’m kind of torn. On the one hand it seems like a huge waste of time. On the other hand I can’t help but remember cases like the one in which a teacher insisted on checking girls’ panties as they came to a dance to make sure they weren’t wearing thongs. :eek: There has got to be a happy medium between parental involvement and in loco parentis.

Granted, the principal isn’t a cop, but is a governmental authority figure with significant powers.

You are stopped by a cop and ask if you’re free to go, when he says yes, you can leave without further incident. You’re not going to get in trouble specifically for leaving.

The principal can punish you for leaving, and for not talking, and give anything you say directly to the police to use in a court of law.

Once upon a time, some of that was definitely the case. In today’s school environment, principals do not have the autonomy and power they had even when I first started teaching. Disciplinary codes are the rule now. Cell phones are so common that we operate under the assumption that any kid summoned to the office will call his parents before he reaches the office. For any serious infraction, the administrator will contact the parents hirself and the incident’s disposition will be handled as a conference with the parent in attendance. Not to mention that any punishment can be appealed to the superintendent and/or the school board.
I’ve seen the principal’s job and I don’t want it.

So can your parent. The school administration is acting in loco parentis, no?

And they can be as crazy as parents, too! :slight_smile:

If you have so little faith in your son’s principal that you think you need to be there, or that your son needs an attorney, I think you’ve got your kid in the wrong school.

This isn’t so much an issue at the elementary level, but it has come up at the college level, where a college disciplinary hearing has the ability to kick you out and such. In general you don’t have a right to counsel at such events, but North Carolina recently passed a bill guaranteeing that right, and Virginia is considering a bill that would do so as well.

In the 12 years I spent in elementary, middle, and high school, I went to the principal’s (or VP) office a total of 5 times. One because I had a cut and the school nurse was out, once because my aunt shared classes with the principal in their grad program and wanted me to say hello (that was awkward), once to get an award from art class, once because I was getting bullied and the VP wanted my version of events, and once because I was actually in trouble. And I ended up in the principals office way more frequently than most of my friends.

I think the idea that this is a bad idea because it’s too much of a time burden is misplaced.

Even in the best school you could have an overzealous principal that goes off the rails at some point.

I think the question at hand is whether the student has a right (or should have a right) to these things, or whether these processes can be changed if the school finds it convenient to.

The Sup’t and School Board aren’t judges or lawyers, they aren’t expected to be experts in constitutional law and civil rights. Should a student’s rights be adjudicated by a person who couldn’t pass the State Bar?

Frankly, this question doesn’t even merit a debate. Counsel should be involved if the matter is one appropriately handled by law enforcement. Otherwise, no.

We have courts for that. If a parent isn’t given satisfaction by the board, then court is the next step. One thing I am completely sure we do not need is lawyers involved in the day-to-day running of our schools.

In practice, [most] kids aren’t sent to the office all that often. In 4 years of high school I was sent to the principal’s office exactly one time and it ended up being a misunderstanding on his part. About 2 minutes of explaining and I was on my way. It would have been silly for me to sit there and say “I’m not going to talk until my mom gets here or you assign a lawyer to represent me”.

Also, regarding the police/court thing someone said above. I remember years ago, when I lived in an apartment complex, I was complaining to to the manager about neighbor. Apparently, at one point the neighbor said ‘Who complained, I have a right to know who my accuser is’ to which the manager said ‘no you don’t, this is an apartment, not a court of law’ and that, I think, still stands here. You’re not under arrest, you’re not in court, the police aren’t involved, most of the kids aren’t adults. Furthermore, if it gets to the point where you’re looking at something beyond a detention (ie long term suspension or expulsion, jail etc) then lawyers can be brought in to review everything and if they feel that you had your words twisted so that you unfairly incriminated yourself into admitting something you didn’t do, they can deal with that and sue the school.

Allowed to have a parent present, sure, I guess, but I don’t think it should be common practice, at least not for something minor. I guess it would be smart if a kid was told to sit tight if they get into trouble for something complex. (We found drugs in YOUR locker…I didn’t put them there, I swear), but for something minor, well, you’re in school to learn how to be an adult, calling mom every time you get in trouble is the opposite of that.

I actually come down on the side of “let them come.” However, as a parent, I’d only involve an attorney if I were convinced the principal was being unfair.

Look, it’s totally possible for a principal to have a bias against a student, whether against the student as an individual, against the student’s family, against the student’s race, against the student’s subculture, or whatever. Most of the time that’s not going to happen, but if it does happen, it can be devastating to the student, and the student can need protection.

A parent who’s going to abuse this–who’s going to protect precious Snookums from the consequences of his hooliganism by hiring an attorney–is definitely a terrible person. But I suspect that if they’re not allowed an attorney, they’ll find another way to be a terrible person.

That said, I’m not entirely clear what the role of the attorney would be, except to ensure that the student’s legal rights are not violated.

Yes, provided the lawyer practices in the appropriate specialty.

I don’t think the right to counsel attaches. Nor can the principal physically restrain the student. If my kid didn’t like how things were going down in the office, I hope she’d just say “I’m sorry, but I’m leaving now, if you have anything else to talk about, please give my parents a call.”