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Friday, April 12, 2013

Ind.Courts. - "With Police in Schools, More Children in Court"

There is a timely article today in the NY Times, reported by Eric Eckholm. It begins:

HOUSTON — As school districts across the country consider placing more police officers in schools, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools where officers are already stationed: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal’s office. * * *

[T]he most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts.

It follows the day after the Indiana House stripped "guns in schools" out of SB 1, which concerns school resourced officers.

One of the things SB 1, as it now exists after the excision, does is "Provides that for purposes of resisting law enforcement and disarming a law enforcement officer, a law enforcement officer includes a school resources officer and a school corporation police officer. "

In the Supreme Court decision in K.W., issued Feb. 22nd, the Court wrote in dicta:

We recognize it is somewhat anomalous that two uniformed law-enforcement officers responding to the same school incident could be treated differently for purposes of resisting law enforcement, if one was purely an “outside” officer while the other was a school-resource officer. School-resource officers serve a vitally important role in maintaining school safety and order against a growing range of discipline problems and threats, and we in no way diminish the value of their work. Yet we are also reluctant to risk blurring the already-fine Fourth Amendment line between school-discipline and law-enforcement duties by allowing the same officer to invisibly “switch hats” — taking a disciplinary role to conduct a warrantless search in one moment, then in the next taking a law-enforcement role to make an arrest based on the fruits of that search.

We note, though, that it would be within the Legislature’s prerogative to conclude that evolving threats to school security and discipline warrant expanding the resisting law enforcement statute to apply to forcible resistance, obstruction, or interference “with a law enforcement[, school liaison, or school resource] officer[,] or a person assisting the officer[,] while the officer is lawfully engaged in the execution of the officer’s duties.” See I.C. § 35-44.1-3-1(a)(1). Not only is such a policy judgment about the changing role of school officers best reserved to a politically responsive branch of government, it would be less likely than common law to cause unintended Fourth Amendment consequences. The Legislature may wish to consider such a change.

SB 1 does not amend IC 35-44.1-3-1(a)(1). It does, however, add a new subsection (d) to IC 35-31.5-2-185, which defines "law enforcement officer" for all of Title 35, to include:
(d) "Law enforcement officer", for purposes of IC 35-44.1-3-1 and IC 35-44.1-3-2, includes a school resource officer (as defined in IC 20-26-18-1) and a school corporation police officer appointed under IC 20-26-16.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 12, 2013 01:17 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts