You Might Not Be Fully Aware of Your Students’ Rights When It Comes to School Discipline

Did you know that as a parent of a child in the public school system, you and your child forfeit some very important rights?   

For example, districts in California operate under an archaic rule (derived under English common law in the 1700s) called,“in loco parentis” which means in place of a parent:

“In loco parentis. The term in loco parentis, Latin for “in the place of a parent” refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. Originally derived from English common law, it is applied in two separate areas of the law.

In loco parentis is a legal doctrine holding that educators assume custody of students in school because they are deprived of protection from their parents or guardians. Educators stand in loco parentis or translated, in place of the parent.”*

This means that while our children are enrolled in the public school system, parents yield their parental control (for the bulk of our children’s days and lives) to the school personnel, the teachers and administrators will act in the “best interest” of your child. Really. No, really? Are we really okay with this? Because it has been my experience as an advocate that school personnel will mostly NOT act in the best interest of your child. Case in point: the current state of the school to prison pipeline. This archaic doctrine is without a doubt one of the biggest contributing factors in perpetuating the school to prison pipeline. This practice must end if we are going to be serious about incarcerating our kids straight from the classroom.  

Were you aware that you can send your child off to school one day and then possibly not see your child again until visiting day at Juvenile Hall? In fact, schools don’t even have to notify a parent when your child is being arrested. Many just leave it to the sheriff or school police to notify you after the fact. In fairness, some are nice enough to let you know when you come to the school to sign the pre-expulsion paperwork that your child is in jail. This is America? This is America.  

A child in the public school system has zero rights to representation when being interrogated by school police, city police or sheriff during an investigation at the school. In other words, students who are interrogated by law enforcement do not get “Miranda rights” as prescribed by the United States Supreme Court. Most often, children are questioned alone and are intimidated and bullied by the police and end up confessing after hours of coercion.   

There is no due process for kids. There should be. While in theory, individual rights of the students are protected by the 14th amendment, in practice, it is not so. The violation of those rights occurs once a student is interrogated without representation or parental consent. Thus, both students and parents give up a critical right in their due process when we continue to allow this to happen at schools all over the country but especially in California.

Even the ACLU has taken up the cause of education students and parents about their rights while in school.  One of those is this right here:

I recently read an abstract in the Emory Law Journal that was dedicated this very topic. I hope you will take a moment to look at it.  

As parents, as advocates, as a community and as a society, we must demand that this practice of violating students’ constitutional rights be done away with. We will be looking for a courageous legislator to carry legislation to end this practice and in turn truly impact the school to prison pipeline! Spread the word.  

What do you think?

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Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia is a Mother, Grandmother, former Middle School Teacher, former Member of a School Board of Education and an Education Advocate for hundreds of parents and students in the Inland Empire. Having become a mother at 15, Leticia knows what it’s like to be a single mother trying to navigate the education system. Leticia received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from California Baptist University and a Masters’ Degree in Education Technology from Cal State Fullerton in her 30’s. Leticia has used her knowledge and experience to help hundreds of families as an Education Advocate in the Inland Empire and currently works as an Education Specialist.

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