Interacting with Police in School
- Many schools have police that go by different names, such as School Resource Officer, Deputy, or School Safety Officer. Sometimes they also act as teachers and counselors. Remember: they are ALWAYS law enforcement agents. That means that if you tell them about criminal activity by you or someone you know, they could follow up or even make an arrest.
- When you interact with the police in school, be respectful. But don’t be afraid to assert your rights.
This information is not intended as legal advice. Some state laws may vary. Updated January 2016.
- A police officer should never harass or bully you or make fun of a personal characteristic, like your race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Also, police officers should also never use more force than is reasonable. Tasing, use of pepper spray, handcuffing, or causing an injury can all qualify as excessive use of force.
- If you are allowed to use your phone at school, you are also allowed to take pictures of on-duty police in public areas at your school as long as you don’t interfere with what they’re doing. In some states you can also record them.
- If you think your rights have been violated in any way, call your local ACLU. www.ACLU.org/affiliates
If You Are Stopped Or Questioned By Police
- Stay calm. Don’t argue, resist, run away, or interfere with the officer (even if you think s/he is wrong). You can ask calmly if you’re free to leave. If yes, calmly and silently walk away.
- If a police officer tells you that you are not free to go, in some states, s/he may require you to identify yourself.
- Know that you can assert your right to remain silent and can answer any question by saying “I want to remain silent.” You also have the right not to write or sign a statement. If you choose to speak or write about what happened, your words can be used against you.
- If you think you want to make a statement, you can also ask to have a lawyer, a parent, or another adult present before you are questioned. If you talk, your words can still be used against you, but it’s the best way to protect your rights.
- Let an adult you trust know what happened. If you’re hurt, see a doctor and take pictures of your injuries.
- Afterwards, write down everything you remember (like the officer’s badge number and name, who else was there, and what happened).
- A search is when an officer looks through your belongings, like your phone or your pockets, to find evidence of a crime. Please note, you don’t have to consent to let police look at your cell phone and if you don’t, police have to get a warrant before they can.
- If an officer asks to search you or your belongings, you can say “I do not consent to this search.” This may not stop the search, but this is the best way to protect your rights.
- An officer cannot search you based on a feeling, a rumor, the color of your skin, or the clothes you are wearing. You can’t be searched just because an officer thinks that you “look like” a drug dealer. Know Your Rights on School Dress Codes
- The search must be related to the crime that you are suspected of committing. For example, an officer cannot search your pockets if he or she thinks you stole a computer from school -- you can’t hide a computer in your pocket.
- Police and school employees are NEVER allowed to strip search you.
- If you’re arrested, ask for a lawyer immediately. Be smart: never resist an arrest or fight an officer.
- A police officer can only arrest you if s/he knows facts (not a rumor or guess) indicating that you probably committed a crime. For example, an officer can arrest you if she saw you steal a computer from school.