In the wake of all the student protests, school shootings, and terrorist threats made across Michigan, it might be helpful to have a guide for what student rights are in school.
Most school discipline isn’t about terrorist threats and most of the time school discipline can be handled in school. However, sometimes school discipline matters become legal issues that will end up going to court.
If that happens to you or someone you love, you need to know what student rights are protected by the law and how school discipline procedures can affect potential criminal proceedings.
Student Rights in School
The right to remain silent
Answering a few questions to clear something up in a disciplinary meeting is one thing. However, if a teacher, a principal or a community resource officer suspects you of committing a crime, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
Now, teachers and principals aren’t law enforcement officers. Their job isn’t to make a case against someone whom they suspect has committed a crime and try to bring that person to justice. Chances are good that in a disciplinary meeting the authorities in question are trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
However, if you have committed a crime and you know it, you need to be aware that the proceedings against you can quickly become a matter for law enforcement officers. In addition, they are not bound by law to tell you the truth or to reveal whether they suspect you of a crime.
The right to have a trusted adult with you to help you write a statement
Again, this pertains more to specifically school discipline. If you are asked by law enforcement officers to write a statement, as a result of school discipline that has turned legal, the adult who should be with you is an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The right to know how school officials came to their decision to suspend you out of school
You have the right to obtain in writing how school officials considered the 7 factors they have to consider. This includes the alternatives to suspension if they plan to suspend you for more than 10 days.
The right to some privacy in school
Students have fewer privacy rights than adults who are not in school. School searches can be conducted without probable cause. Additionally, students can be questioned and then searched based on their demeanor during questioning.
Your backpack, purse, locker, car in the school parking lot, cell phone or social media account can be searched. School officials can search individuals or submit large sectors of the student body if they suspect something illegal going on at large.
However, not all courts will uphold all types of searches and you can always object to a search being done, as long as you do not hinder it or act out in violence because of it. Schools may not randomly search any or every student.
The right to limited free speech in school
Examples of speech that is not allowable on school grounds and/or is not protected by the First Amendment:
- Speech that is a substantial disruption of the school environment
- Speech that is an invasion of the rights of others
- Incitement (to violence)
- False statements of fact
- Child Pornography
- Speech owned by others
Free speech includes out-of-school postings on social media or other internet sites unless they are true threats, are meant to reach the school environment (as in the terrorist threats made against schools in Michigan), or pose a serious safety risk or substantial disruption in the school environment.
The right to due process protections
This means that you can’t just be kicked out without warning or without time to prepare a defense. You must be allowed to hire legal aid at the appropriate time. Michigan used to be a zero tolerance state.
Until August 1, 2017, permanent expulsion was required for many different things. The new laws keep kids from being expelled or removed for more than 10 days unless officials consider those 7 factors.
The right a student does not have
You do not have the constitutional right to an education. Michigan law states that a school district must permanently expel a student who possesses a firearm with the intent to use it. For 180 days. And no public school has an obligation to reinstate you. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
If you or a loved one are facing charges related to school discipline or a crime committed on school grounds or within the school community, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney working for you. Call my office today.