If you want your child to get help, the police and the courts are the LAST place you should turn! There are private alternatives, programs, counseling, and schools that can address your concerns without saddling your child with a life-long brand as a criminal offender.
Understanding the Juvenile Justice System
When a child is charged with an offense, he or she will be brought before the court in the Juvenile Justice System. It is similar to the adult court, but there are several key differences. The most noticeable difference is how fast things happen. From the initial contact with the system through the resolution of the case can all happen within a few short weeks. With this kind of time pressure, it is vital that you talk to an attorney who knows the Juvenile Justice System and can successfully guide you through it. Attorney Justin P. Miller spent three years in the Centre County Public Defender Office representing adult and juvenile clients in all stages of the court process. He has the skills and knowledge to help you and your child get through this difficult time.
Understanding Student Discipline
Students have the right to an education. During discipline proceedings, students have specific due process rights. Schools often attempt to take the right to an education away. Students also have an obligation to follow school rules and not disrupt other students’ learning. That being said, kids are kids and teenagers are teenagers and they make mistakes. It is part of growing up. Parents and students alike do not want to see students’ educations cut short because of alleged behavioral problems unrelated to academics. Unfortunately, our modern, overworked school administrators are quick to suspend students at the first sign of any behavioral problem. This often needlesly interrupts the student’s education.
Your Child Has Rights
Your child has several important, Constitutionally-guaranteed due process rights. If your child is facing a longer suspension (over 10 days long) or expulsion, he or she has the right to a hearing. This isn’t a hearing before a judge or in a courtroom, but it must be conducted according to the law. Teachers and principals are not lawyers, however, and often do not follow the law when suspending or expelling a student. Most parents aren’t lawyers either and can be overwhelmed by how quickly the disciplinary process moves.
You must assert your child’s rights, and you only have a few days to do it. If you don’t request a hearing on your child’s behalf, he or she may be suspended or expelled without any further consideration.
Parents and students also have the right to see the evidence before the hearing. It must be demanded in writing, and this should be done as early as possible, preferably hand-delivering the demand to the correct person at the school. Parents – or their attorney – must be persistent. Despite the legal requirement to turn over this information, most schools are reluctant to release this information.
In addition to student discipline, your child may also be facing a criminal charge in juvenile court. Gone are the days where a student gets a stern talking-to by the principal and sent back to class. These days, even minor infractions result in the police being called and charges filed, often by a school-based police officer. If your child is criminally charged, keep in mind that statements made in the student disciplinary proceedings will likely be used against your child in the criminal context.
Attorney Justin Miller offers consultation and representation in this area and can help students and parents formulate a plan to convince the school to keep the student in school and the prosecution from not pursuing criminal charges.