Recess is Over: Granting Miranda Rights to Students Interrogated Inside School Walls
64 Pages Posted: 15 May 2012
Date Written: April 4, 2012
When school officials and law enforcement question students about suspicious activities without parents or counsel present, students are overmatched. This power imbalance raises questions about whether students’ constitutional rights are being adequately protected. These questions have gone largely unanswered, as the Supreme Court has never addressed the applicability of Miranda warnings in school interrogation settings. However, the 2011 J.D.B. v. North Carolina decision, in which the Court held age relevant to custody for Miranda purposes, has opened the door for a reevaluation of the dynamics of school interrogations.
This comment argues that the mere presence of a law enforcement officer at a student’s interrogation, occurring on school grounds in the absence of counsel, transforms the encounter into custodial interrogation, requiring Miranda warnings to be given. This argument rests on two foundations: (1) scientific evidence demonstrating that adolescents’ brains are developmentally different from adults’ brains, rendering them more vulnerable to shows of authority, and (2) the coercive effect of increasing law enforcement presence on school grounds in recent decades. Students deserve Miranda’s protections when they are questioned by school officials and law enforcement because this police-dominated, inherently coercive interrogation environment is what the Miranda Court sought to protect.
Keywords: Student, interrogation, Miranda, law enforcement, custody
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