An article that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times chronicled an investigation detailing various abuses made by law enforcement officials in public school settings. The primary critique focused on improper questioning techniques being used by officers to incite confessions from students who were suspected of various crimes.
The article listed various occasions where students were questioned without being properly read their Miranda rights, and multiple times where charges where made and students were arrested without their parents being notified.
While school safety and security are major issues facing educational institutions on every level, officers working to eliminate crime must obey the same body of laws they are sworn to enforce.
There is no acceptable reason minors, who most likely understands less about their rights than most adults, should feel required to answer questions without clearly understanding their right to have a parent and lawyer present and what they are being accused of.
Furthermore, the violation of these rights often leads to many confessions being thrown out. The work done by these officers is not only wasted, but the child – if he or she truly committed the crime – will not be properly punished. Cases being made without regard to standard operating procedure leads to a waste of taxpayer money.
There is also a concern for the impact these shoddy investigations will have on the futures of the accused students. With an arrest record remaining permanent, a heavy-handed officer can turn playground incidents that are common in schools into felonies. Where students may have once been expelled or suspended, they may find their lapses of judgment will hinder them from achieving success in their lives.
To make matters worse, the generation being raised in an environment in which an officer has abused his or her power, is not learning to respect law enforcement but to fear it.
As it stands, Florida counties have different rules for the behavior of officers in a school environment, and this leads to the blurry relationship between law enforcement and school administration. The state of Florida needs to focus on establishing clearly defined conduct and behavior for officers when acting in a public school environment.
Students in Florida should be spending their time learning about their civil freedoms, not having them infringed upon.