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Policy Manual

5540 - Investigations and Interviews

By Law Enforcement on Request of School Authorities

  A. Administrative
    If public health or safety is involved, upon request of a school principal who shall be present, law enforcement officers may make a general search for drugs, weapons, or items of an illegal, prohibited, or dangerous nature, of students' lockers and desks, or students' or non-students' automobiles.


  B. Criminal
    If a principal has received reliable information which she/he believes to be true that evidence of a crime or stolen goods, not involving school property of members of the school staff or student body, is located in a certain student's locker, desk, or a student's or non-student's automobile, and the search is unrelated to school discipline or health and safety of a student or student body, she/he shall request law enforcement assistance. Law enforcement shall follow their procedures to obtain and execute a lawful search.


By Law Enforcement Without Request of School Authorities

Normally, law enforcement officers may not search students' lockers, desk, or automobiles unless they have a search warrant and may not search a student's person in school unless the student is under arrest. However, there are specific exceptions contained in Florida statute (e.g., probable cause or stop and frisk).

A school official may not consent to a warrantless search of a student's locker, desk, or automobile.


By School Administrators

Schools administrators have the right and duty to conduct student interviews relative to Student Code of Conduct violations or to determine if crimes have been committed during school hours on school property, or during a school sanctioned activity. In these situations a school principal may interview the student without the parents being present and without giving the student constitutional warnings, regardless of the source of information. This applies to all breaches of school discipline, health and safety of the student or student body, or presence in the school building or grounds of illegal matter.

If a student is a suspect or is accused of a crime not involving the foregoing, or if the interview of a particular student is law enforcement instigated, the interview of such student by a school principal may be deemed "State action", the student may be deemed "in custody", a parent shall be notified, and constitutional warnings shall first be given to the student before a statement is taken. In any event, the voluntariness of any admission or confession of the student will later have to be established in any criminal prosecution, juvenile court proceeding, or school expulsion proceeding.

With the exception of those crimes that must be reported to the law enforcement a school principal may exercise his/her discretion in determining whether to request assistance of law enforcement in investigation an allegation of a crime committed in his/her school building or on school grounds during school hours. If assistance is so requested, it shall be directed to the law enforcement department of the municipality in which the school building is located.

By Law Enforcement on Request of School Authorities

  A. Administrative
    If an interview by the law enforcement officer is at the request of the school principal for the purpose of enforcing school discipline or because the health and safety of the student or student body is involved, or the presence in school buildings or grounds of illegal matter, the law enforcement may interview the student without giving the student constitutional warnings. Although efforts shall be made to notify a parent of the student, the interview may proceed if the parent is unavailable or unwilling to attend. However, as soon as practical thereafter, an unavailable parent should be contacted.


  B. Criminal


    1. Witness (or Victim)
      If a school principal requests assistance in handling an investigation related to his/her school building or students, a law enforcement officer may conduct a general investigation within the school building and interview students as possible witnesses in school during the school day. However, unless there is an emergency, the school shall first notify a parent of the student prior to the interview. The interview may proceed if the parent is unwilling to attend. The school principal or his/her designee shall be present during the interview. However, if the principal or designee are not available, the law enforcement officer may proceed with the interview.


    2. Suspects
      If a school principal requests law enforcement assistance in investigating a crime and if the investigation focuses on a particular student as a prime suspect, the school principal shall first notify the student's parent of the intended interview. The school principal, designee, or parent shall normally be present during the interview.


By Law Enforcement Without Request of School Authorities

It should ordinarily not be necessary for law enforcement officers to interview students at school during school hours for unrelated crimes committed outside of school or crimes committed in school during school hours for which assistance has not been requested.

If the law enforcement deem circumstances urgent and need to interview students at school, the law enforcement department shall first contact the school principal regarding the planned visit and inform him/her of the probable cause to investigate within the school. The administration should contact the student's parent prior to the interview, when possible. The notification of parents may not apply in child abuse cases.

Arrest by Law Enforcement Officers

It should ordinarily not be necessary for law enforcement officers to arrest or take custody of students during school hours at school for crimes committed outside of school.

In cases where it is necessary to take a student into custody, the law enforcement officers should first contact the school principal and advise him/her of the necessity of making the arrest. The proper procedure would be for the administration to summon the student to the office in the administrative suite. All efforts should be made to avoid having students arrested in front of his/her peers. Also, administration should contact the student's parent as soon as practical thereafter.

In emergency situations, where the commission of a crime or offense involving felony or breach of the peace in school has been witnessed by a law enforcement officer, or if the law enforcement officer is in "hot pursuit" of the student for such a crime, the law enforcement officers have the legal right to take direct and unhindered action in the schools. When a student is arrested, the parent should be notified as soon as possible.

Mandatory Reporting to Law Enforcement of Crimes Committed in Schools

In accordance with F.S. 1006.13 and the interlocal agreement with law enforcement, any evidence of a crime constituting a felony or violent misdemeanor, whether committed by a student or adult, and delinquent acts that would be felonies or violent misdemeanors if committed by an adult, will be reported by the school principal to the local law enforcement - whether the information was reported to the principal or discovered by the principal.

Information or evidence as to other crimes deemed serious by the law enforcement shall be turned over by the school principal to the law enforcement upon official request by the law enforcement.

The following crimes, while not all-inclusive, are considered serious. All information, reports, or evidence thereof known by the principal, shall be turned over to the law enforcement.

  A. serious assaults when victim is injured by use of a weapon or continued patterns of recurring simple assaults


  B. possession of knives (to include razor blades, box cutters, electric weapons, knives, and pocket knives), firearms, ammunition, blasting caps, or any other explosives in school


  C. alcohol related and/or narcotic offenses


  D. indecent assaults or assault with intent to ravish


  E. gang rivalries or activities


  F. aggravated assault


  G. aggravated battery


  H. battery on a School District employee


  I. arson


  J. placement or threat to place a destructive device


  K. robbery


  L. tampering with a witness


  M. extortion


  N. sexual battery or assault


  O. criminal mischief (vandalism) exceeding $1,000


  P. possession of illegal drugs/narcotics


  Q. battery with injury


  R. fighting (brawling) with injury


Information received by law enforcement from school authorities as to students suspected of crime, unless it is direct evidence, shall be regarded as confidential.

When the obligation to report an incident is unclear, school based personnel are encouraged to contact the School Security Chief (646-1667), or failing in that, err on the side of caution and report the incident to local law enforcement. No student suspect shall be authorized to leave campus prior to a law enforcement response.

When the obligation to report an incident is unclear, school personnel are encouraged to err on the side of caution and report the incident. If there are questions, contact Security Services at 623-3996.

Statement of Policy

Law enforcement agencies agree to comply with the following guidelines:

  A. The officer will always contact the school principal, assistant principal for student affairs, or their designee when conducting any interview or investigation within their school.


  B. In schools where School Resource Officers/Deputies are assigned, the investigating officer will make an effort to contact the School Resource Officer/Deputy and coordinate the investigation through that officer.


  C. In any instance where a school official feels a law enforcement officer has violated the rights of any child, or that the normal school function has been unduly disrupted by the investigating officer's action, the school administrator shall notify the Director of Security Services who will in turn act as a liaison with the appropriate agency.


  D. Any questions involving the rights of law enforcement officers in the schools should be directed to the School Resource Officer/Deputy, Director of Security Services, or the Board Attorney.


Child Abuse/Neglect

  A. Mandatory Reports


    1. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is responsible, as mandated to provide comprehensive protective services for abused, abandoned, and neglected children found in Florida by requiring that reports of each abused, abandoned, and neglected child be made to the Florida Child Abuse Hotline. The DCF is committed to working in partnership with local communities, including schools, to the safety, well-being, and self-sufficiency for the people it serves.


    2. F.S. 415.504 mandates that any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal caregiver, or person responsible for the child's welfare, shall immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the Florida Child Abuse Hotline of the DCF. The law mandates that certain professionals are required to provide their names and not report anonymously to the Florida Abuse Hotline.


  B. Mandatory Reporters


    1. School teachers, school officials or personnel, social workers, and certain other professionals are listed as mandated reporters and required to provide their name to the Hotline staff. The name of the reporter shall be entered into the record of the report but shall be held confidential as provided in F.S. 415.


    2. The law designates failure to report or prevent another person from doing so to be a criminal offense. Teachers or other school personnel possessing knowledge or suspicion of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect should report via the Florida Abuse Hotline. It is not acceptable to relay information about suspected abuse or neglect to another staff member to make the report. There are increased criminal penalties for those required to report incidents and don't.


  C. Florida Abuse Hotline - 1-800-962-2873 (1-800-96ABUSE)
    The Hotline will accept a report when there is reasonable cause to suspect a child has been harmed or is believed to be threatened with harm by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child's welfare. The Kayla McKean Child Protection Act of 1999 emphasizes the Hotline's responsibility to accept reports from professional school officials as valid when harm is alleged.


  D. Child Abuse Student Interview


    1. This act amends Florida statutes relating to investigations of child abuse or neglect. It provides that a school instructional staff member who is known by the child may be present during the initial interview of a child protective or criminal investigation when the interview is conducted at school under the following conditions:


      a. the Department of Children and Families or the law enforcement agency believes the presence of the staff member could enhance the success of the interview; and


      b. the child requests or consents to the staff member's presence at the interview.


    2. School instructional staff may be present only when authorized under the above conditions. It also requires that information received during the interview or from any other source regarding the alleged abuse or neglect be kept confidential except as provided by court order. The school or instructional staff member is prohibited from maintaining a separate record of the investigation. The act further specifies that violations of these provisions constitute a misdemeanor of the second degree.


    3. The term "school instructional staff member" has raised some questions on the State level as the Department of Education does not use this term to include principals. DCF conferred with the legislative staff and it is not the intent to exclude principals.


    4. This law is intended to allow any school personnel, except secretarial support staff, who is close to the child to be present during the interview if the child requests or consents to that person being there, and the investigative agency determines that such presence could enhance the success of the interview.


Student Records Release

Florida and Federal laws prohibit the disclosure of student records, including attendance records to any unauthorized person. Even members of the staff are prohibited from accessing such records unless the staff member has an educational need for the knowledge. Other personnel, including school resource officers, are not to be allowed access to student records. Law enforcement may obtain student records pursuant to a subpoena or an interlocal agreement between the Board and the appropriate agency. Therefore, care should be taken to insure that school resource officers do not disseminate attendance records or other student records to law enforcement agencies or other persons, except in accordance with the law.

Access to student records is governed by F.S. 1002.22(3)(a) which provides that all student records are confidential and not be disclosed to any person except those authorized by law. A parent may have access to student records maintained by the District, relating to a current or former student, but only for as long as the student has not reached eighteen (18) years of age and is no longer a dependent of the parent or guardian. Once a student attains the age of eighteen (18) and is no longer a dependent of the parent or guardian, the right of access belongs to him/her and not the parents. Only school officials, including teachers may have access to student records only if they have "legitimated educational interest in the information contained in the records".

  A. Subpoenas and Court Orders
    The District must comply with subpoenas and court orders commanding the disclosure of student records. However, by law, the parents of the student must be informed of the subpoena or court order before the disclosure is made.


  B. Release Without Notice
    Disclosure of student records may be made without notice for the reasons, but only for the reasons, and the persons, set forth in the law, including: other school officials having a legitimate educational interest in the information, appropriate persons in an emergency situation in which the information is needed to deal with the emergency, and school expulsion hearings.



This document was originally prepared by the Board attorney, has recently been reviewed by him/her, and is still valid for principals to follow. Review the information presented and keep handy for reference. When questions arise a principal is not sure how to address, call the Area Director of assistance.

Fla. Const. Art. I, Sect. 9

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