Schools have long had security guards, but over the past several years these guards have been replaced by police officers, often called school resource officers. While most school resource officers and students have at least a civil relationship, dealing with school resource officers is not the same as dealing with teachers.
As a student, it's important to know what your rights are when facing searches, being questioned or otherwise interacting with these officers.
What You Need to Know About These Officers
School resource officers are real police officers. They are not private security employees who were just given a badge. They have the legal power to arrest you and question you in accordance with the law.
You do retain state and federal/constitutional rights in school, however. These officers must treat you humanely. The officers:
- Can't treat you differently because of your race, religion, or any other personal characteristic
- Can't bully you.
- Absolutely cannot strip search you;
- Can't search belongings that have no connection to a crime (the ACLU gives the example of searching your pockets when investigating a stolen desktop computer because you can't fit a computer in your pocket);
The above is only a partial list of what officers are not allowed to do. And here are some important reminders about your rights when interacting with a resource officer. You have the right to:
- Remain silent and refuse to answer questions that could incriminate you
- Request that another adult (trusted by you) be present before you answer any questions or give statements
- Speak to a criminal defense attorney before cooperating with police
- Ask if you are free to go (if the officer says yes, you can leave)
Your Behavior Is Important, Too
It is crucial to stay civil and polite when dealing with officers. Even if you were not involved in the incident they are investigating, if you act strangely, it could be more difficult to get them to believe what you say, or you could be accused of interfering with the investigation.
If you ever have a questionable experience with school resource officers or you have been accused of a crime, please contact an experienced defense attorney immediately.