The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review a Kentucky state supreme court decision that would force schools to issue Miranda warnings to students when questioned by school officials in the presence of school resource officers.
NSBA and KSBA are joined by 15 other education groups, including the American Association of School Administrators and the National Association of School Resource Officers, and local educational cooperatives in an amicus brief to the high court in Commonwealth of Kentucky v. N.C. The brief maintains a recent ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court is too rigid and restricts school administrators’ ability to react quickly to dangerous situations. The ruling also mischaracterized the role of school resource officers, who perform numerous duties such as student counseling, instruction, and public safety and law enforcement functions, and it limits their abilities to keep schools secure.
“School officials must be allowed to use their professional judgment to handle student disciplinary matters and maintain safety in the unique and often complex school environment,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “School boards must be vigilant about protecting all students’ safety, and this decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court undermines their abilities.”
The case involves a student who had confessed to a school principal, with a school resource officer present, that he had given a banned substance to another student. Ignoring a lengthy list of other decisions regarding the role of school officials and the use of Miranda rights in the context of a K-12 school environment, the Kentucky high court ruled that the student was not read his Miranda rights and thus his confession could be suppressed.
It is particularly important for school administrators and school resource officers to build lines of communications with their students, who are usually their primary source of information about issues that impact school safety, such as drugs or weapons, so that they can preserve a safe school climate. By forcing school resource officers to read Miranda rights, this ruling would intimidate students and chill these important sources of information.
“School resource officers have become integral preventive safety tools in hundreds of Kentucky schools. They interact every day with administrators and students alike,” said David Baird, Interim Executive Director of KSBA. “Our members feel the court ruling unjustly drives a wedge in this process that could keep critical safety information from being shared by students with principals or security officers.”