Note: This information is from our manual, Discipline in Public Schools.
School Discipline and Juvenile Justice
- Can the school involve the police if my child gets in trouble at school?
Yes. Schools may call law enforcement if there is an emergency or an imminent threat. They might also refer serious offenses to law enforcement.
Some schools have law enforcement officers, commonly called “School Resource Officers” or “SROs” who work at schools.
Any school district that decides to have an SRO on a school campus must develop a written agreement by the 2020-21 school year that explains the agreement between the district and the law enforcement agency. The agreement must explain the officer’s roles and responsibilities in relation to student discipline. The agreement must make it clear that SROs will not be involved in formal student discipline situations that are the responsibility of school administrators.
If a student is accused of assaulting or harassing someone at school (another student, a teacher or other staff person), then that person might decide to contact the police directly to make a complaint.
If you hear that an incident has been referred to the police, it is important to seek legal advice to understand what the consequences might be for your child.
- What happens if my child is charged with a crime based on something they did at school?
If your child is charged with a crime, they will have the right to have a public defender or other criminal defense attorney to represent them.
Encourage your child to talk to their defense attorney to understand the possible consequences of the charge, and to understand how a school discipline case might affect the criminal case. If a student makes statements to someone at school, including a school principal or a discipline hearing officer, those statements could be used in a criminal case.
That does not mean a student has to give up the right to challenge school discipline, but it is very important to talk with an attorney if there might be criminal charges involved before going to a discipline hearing.
Make sure the defense attorney has information about any special services your child receives at school. For example, if your child has a plan for accommodations, special education services, or behavior interventions, that may provide important context and could influence whether your child is charged or not.
- Help your Child Know their Rights in order to Protect their Rights
Students’ rights in relation to police and juvenile courts help protect students from unfair or unreasonable punishments. In order to stand up for their rights, students need to know what they are.
For information about the rights of youth in contacts with police and in the juvenile justice system, check out Teamchild’s graphic guides and short videos: https://teamchild.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Washington-State-Know-Your-Rights-Graphic-Guide-2013.pdf
- Who is responsible for my student’s education if they have to spend time in juvenile detention?
Students have the right to receive an education when they are in juvenile detention. Education services in juvenile detention centers are generally provided by the school district where the detention center is located. In some areas, the regional “Educational Service District,” or ESD, provides the educational services for students in juvenile detention.
If you have questions about educational supports for a student who is in juvenile detention, please do not hesitate to ask for help. You can ask at the facility for contact information for teachers, for special education questions or for other specialized supports.
Each of the different regional ESDs has someone who works as an Education Advocate for youth in juvenile detention facilities. You can find contact information for them at this link: https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/institutionaled/pubdocs/phonelistea.pdf
You can also contact our office to see if we can help. You can reach us at 1-866-297-2597 or through our online intake system at: https://services.oeo.wa.gov/oeo.