KSBA has taken the lead on filing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a student discipline/ juvenile court case that has school-safety implications.
The Office of the Kentucky Attorney General has asked the court to hear an appeal of a Kentucky Supreme Court decision in N.C. v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Case Number 2011-SC-000271-DG. That ruling requires students to be read their Miranda rights if a law enforcement officer, including a school resource officer, is present during the student’s questioning about any misconduct that might land the student in the Kentucky juvenile or criminal court system. The amicus brief will support the attorney general’s petition. Due to the pending appeal, the case is not yet final.
The case involved a juvenile who brought oxycodone pills to school and gave some of them to other students. The assistant principal questioned the student in the presence of the school resource officer. The student admitted to having brought the pills to school and giving some of them to a friend. He was then charged in a juvenile petition with dispensing a controlled substance, which is a Class D felony. The student was classified as a public offender because he was over 16 at the time he committed the offense.
The trial court denied the student’s motion to suppress his confession. The student then entered into a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion based upon the principal’s failure to read him his Miranda rights. The Kentucky Court of Appeals refused to review the trial court opinion. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court granted the student’s motion for discretionary review. In May of this year, a deeply divided state Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) overturned the trial court decision to deny the motion to suppress the confession.
While the attorney general’s argument will focus on the legalities, the amicus brief will focus on public policy arguments on the need to promote school safety. The amicus will argue that students may be discouraged from telling where a weapon, drugs, etc., may be located in a school building if they are read their Miranda rights before school administrators question them.
Teresa Combs, KSBA's director of legal and administrative training, had overseen the project to which all of Kentucky’s regional educational cooperatives have helped fund and will sign the brief. Other groups who provided funding and will sign the brief are the Kentucky Center for School Safety, the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
The National School Boards Association is providing some services for the preparation and filing of the brief and will also sign it.
The brief will be written by the nationally known firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP in connection with Education Counsel, LLC, another nationally known firm in Washington, D.C.