What To Do When Your Child is Arrested at School in Pennsylvania
All parents dread getting a phone call from the school telling them their child is in trouble. However, when their child’s acts amount to criminal behavior, the police get involved.
What Is the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act?
The Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act (Act 44 of 2018) is a law that requires schools to do the following:
- Appoint School Safety and Security Coordinators
- Establish safety training for school employees
- Establish standards for school police, resource officers, and security guards
The Act also created the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) program and the School Safety and Security Committee within the program. The PCCD helps schools develop guides with specific assessment criteria focused on school safety.
Some core components of the Safe Schools Act include preventing and awareness of suicide, bullying, violence, and substance use.
Safe2Say Something Program
The Safe2Say Something Program was established by Act 44 to prevent youth violence. It teaches adults and youth how to recognize warning signs on social media and in real life when an individual is a threat to themselves or others.
Suppose a school official believes a student is a threat to themselves or others. In that case, they may handle the situation internally or, in extreme cases, alert the authorities, and the child may be arrested for protecting themselves and others.
What Are Common School Offenses in Pennsylvania?
Children in schools may engage in criminal activity for several reasons. They may be trying to protect themselves, misunderstand the situation, or be influenced by peer pressure. Regardless of the cause, these common school offenses can lead to severe penalties:
- Inchoate crimes (including possession of a firearm or other weapon on school property)
- Aggravated hazing
18 Pa. C.S. Chapter 9 describes various inchoate crimes, such as possession of instruments of a crime and prohibited offensive weapons. These criminal offenses make it illegal to have a knife, firearm, or another unlawful weapon on school property.
Bullying may fall into various categories, including assault, harassment, or hazing. While assault (18 Pa. C.S. Chapter 7) involves a single episode of a threat or actual physical harm, harassment is ongoing abuse.
Hazing (18 Pa. C.S. Chapter 28) involves several harmful activities to a minor or student for the purpose of initiating, admitting, or affiliating the individual into or with an organization.
What Happens When an Incident Is Committed at School in PA?
In many cases, an offensive incident at school may be handled by school personnel. However, if the activity arises to criminal action, law enforcement will be called.
The school will conduct an initial investigation of the incident, including interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence. They will create an official report.
Unfortunately, school reports of incidents are often unreliable. However, that information will be transmitted to the police and incorporated into the police report.
It is essential to contact a juvenile justice attorney immediately if law enforcement is involved in an incident related to your child. Your attorney must conduct an independent investigation to ensure your child has a fair outcome in court.
What Is Law Enforcement’s Role?
Law enforcement will arrive at the school after an incident and oversee the investigation. Their immediate goal is to stabilize the scene and ensure no one else is in danger. Then, first responders will provide medical treatment to anyone who is injured.
Investigators will arrive on the scene, secure evidence so it does not get contaminated, and place it in safe locations. They will also talk to witnesses and obtain contact information from anyone involved.
What Happens When Your Child is Arrested in Pennsylvania?
The police may arrest your child and take them into custody. Law enforcement may try to ask your child questions without giving them proper warnings about their rights to legal representation and to have their parents present.
The school must contact the child’s parents and document each attempt. They should not question your child without you being present. However, they often do interrogate a suspect before any support arrives.
The district attorney (DA) may press charges against your child if your child is labeled as an actor in the incident. Your child will appear in court at an arraignment, and bail may be offered. If the judge does not set a bail amount, your child may remain in police custody until their initial appearance.
You Need a Private Juvenile Defense Attorney
Although your child could be appointed a public defender, that attorney will be very busy and may not have time to investigate the situation appropriately.
Public defenders often cannot negotiate a plea bargain effectively because of their time restraints. To get the best outcome possible, you need to hire a private juvenile defense attorney who will dedicate time to your case.