Differentiating Disciplinary Misconduct from Criminal Offenses
- School administrators and teachers are responsible for school discipline. SROs should not be involved with the enforcement of school rules or disciplinary infractions that are not violations of law.
- Both HCPS and HCSO shall operate in a manner to ensure children with disabilities receive appropriate behavioral interventions and supports.
- The release of student records is governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Under FERPA, “school officials” may access and disclose student records according to the provision of 20 U.S.C. §1232g.
- SROs are considered “school officials” and may be provided student information as needed to carry out their duties related to the school environment. SROs may be provided access to directory information for all students in the school division and may have access to information on students in their assigned schools that includes directory information and additional items needed to carry out their duties, such as class schedules, as approved by the school administrator.
- In the event of a significant and articulable threat to health or safety, school officials may disclose any information from the student records to appropriate parties, including law enforcement officials, whose knowledge of the information is needed to protect the health and safety of a student or another individual.
- SROs may disclose only law enforcement records created and maintained by the SRO for the purpose of ensuring the physical safety and security of people and property in schools and/or enforcement of laws. Law enforcement records are not to be maintained in student records and are therefore not subject to the disclosure restrictions of FERPA.
Investigation and Questioning
- SROs have the authority to question students who may have information about criminal activity. SROs have the authority to stop, question, interview, and take law enforcement action without prior authorization of the school administrator or contacting parents.
- Investigation and questioning of students during school hours or at school events should be limited to situations where the investigation is related to suspected criminal activity.
- Investigations and questioning of students for offenses not related to the operation of the school or occurring at the school should take place at the school only when a delay might result in danger to any person, destruction of evidence, or flight from the jurisdiction by the person suspected of a crime.
- Interviewing of students—whether suspects, victims, or witnesses—should be conducted in a private office setting at a time deemed to have minimal intrusion on the educational experience of the student.
- To avoid coercion, and understanding that students may not understand when they are free to excuse themselves from questioning, students must be given the following elements of due process:
- Informed generally of the purpose of the investigation
- Warned against self-incrimination in a developmentally appropriate manner
- Given an opportunity to present informally his or her knowledge of the facts
- If a student wishes to remain silent, contact his or her parents or an attorney, or to end the interview, the questioning should cease and the student’s request should be granted unless detaining the student is lawful and reasonable under the circumstances.
- School administrators are responsible for the questioning of students about violations of the code of conduct. SROs shall not be included in the questioning of students about code of conduct violations that do not involve any criminal activity or risk of harm to self or others. SROs are responsible to lead the investigation and questioning of students related to suspected violations of criminal law. If the school administrator’s questioning of a student uncovers an act that may be a violation of the law, the school administrator may disclose this information to the SRO to determine if there is a violation of the law. If there is a violation of the law, the school administrator will yield to the SRO with the understanding that interview notes, as appropriate, will be shared with the appropriate HCPS personnel.
- While the SRO does not have to have authorization from the school administrator or consent from the parent/guardian to question a student, the school administrator is responsible for attempting to contact a parent/guardian at the onset of the questioning of a student who is suspected of violating the law.
- If a student who is under the age of 16 is being questioned as a suspect in the custody of the SRO or any other law enforcement officer, the school administrator shall be allowed to sit in loco parentis while the student is being questioned.
- In matters of sexual battery and sexual assault, HCPS is required to complete an investigation with or without assistance from HCSO. HCPS shall include appropriate law enforcement officials when a student initially discloses a report of sexual battery or sexual assault. The Sheriff or his designee will allow for appropriate HCPS personnel to listen to the interview of student suspects or make available the report from such interviews.
- All searches shall be conducted in accordance with federal and state laws and applicable HCPS and HCSO policies and guidelines.
- School officials may conduct searches of a student’s property and person under HCPS jurisdiction when “reasonable suspicion” exists that the search will reveal evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the code of conduct.
- Any search initiated by SROs or other law enforcement officers shall be based upon “probable cause.” The invasiveness of the search must be reasonable at its inception and continue to be reasonable if it becomes more invasive. All law enforcement searches of persons or properties should occur outside the presence of other students and school staff, with the exception of school administrators, unless there is a clear and immediate threat to physical safety.
- At no time shall an SRO become involved in a school-related, or administrative, search or request that an administrator conduct a school-related search for law enforcement purposes. SROs must not have school officials act as agents of the law.
- Arrests that must occur during school hours or on school grounds should be coordinated through the school administrator to minimize potential disruptions.
- SROs are responsible for immediately reporting to school administrators any arrests of students, and further, the SRO must notify the parents or guardians of the student who has been arrested. School administrators are responsible for communicating additional information, such as school-defined disciplinary matters.
- An SRO should not be involved in the physical restraint or seclusion of a student unless there is imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others. As sworn law enforcement officers, SROs may intervene to deescalate situations.
- If an SRO is involved in the use of restraint or physical intervention, the action must be reported to the school principal and the SRO’s supervisor and the rationale for the action must be fully documented.
- The school administrator and the SRO will coordinate to ensure that reasonable effort is made to inform the parents/guardians of the student on the day of the incident.
Situational Command for School Threats
“School Threats” is intended to include messages or rumors alleging terroristic acts against the school community or its properties, allegations of future violence among students, and the alleged presence or potential for the presence of a weapon(s) on the school campus.
- The principal and other designated HCPS personnel will retain situational command at the school during the investigation of a threat until
- HCSO determines that the potential threat is a valid threat
- In the event that HCPS personnel yields situational command of the school campus to HCSO, command will be restored to the school principal or his/her designee when
- HCSO has completed a sweep of the facilities and is satisfied that the building and surrounding campus is restored to normal; or
- HCSO has determined that the person(s) responsible for the threat have been taken into custody or questioned thoroughly enough to resolve the threat.
- HCSO has completed the search, recovery, and documentation of any evidence from the facility.
Cooperation with Investigations
- When there are matters that involve students of Henry County and the HCSO needs access to student demographic information or directory information, the SRO Lieutenant can facilitate communication between HCSO and HCPS point of contact to obtain student information. Communication of this sort should be limited to matters that are student-centered rather than parent-centered.
- Student records, excluding directory information, shall not be given to the SRO for the purpose of serving as evidence in court proceedings. If student records are needed for court proceedings, a subpoena duces tecum should be issued.
For the purposes of the MOU, surveillance videos are not considered to be part of a student’s record and will be made available at the request of the HCSO.