Thursday, March 27, 2014

DCF Interviews at School

It is a pet peeve of mine that DCF investigators think they can talk to children at school and that schools let them.

It has been a major debate in several federal appeals courts, amongst attorney members of the National Association of Counsel for Children, on the American Bar Association Child / Parent Attorneys email discussion list, amongst members of the National Association of CPS Defenses Attorneys and even at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unfortunately it remains an open question. But I lean toward the proposition that schools should not permit DCF personnel, police or other employees of outside agencies to interview children, who are not in the custody of the interviewing person, at school.

My answer to the question "is it legal?"on avvo.com, which lays out some of my reasoning, can be found here: http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/my-child-is-being-questioned-at-school-by-dcf.

If your school committee has a policy about visitors or interviews and you know or suspect that your child might be a target for an interview, consider adapting the form letters in my previous post to your situation.

And consult with an attorney who is familiar with DCF policies and practices.

11 comments:

MLR said...

Thanks to the poster of the avvo.com question I linked in the main post, I now have another heading to look for in checking out school committee policies on the subject. The North Middlesex Regional
School District titled its policy "relations with welfare department".

Asker wrote, "It states that they allow child welfare workers to speak to the children with the nurse involved."

Anonymous said...

When a parent is an alleged perpetrator of a serious offense, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse or severe neglect, it is very difficult to get the truth when directly in the presence of that parent. Other than at the school, there is not a setting for these interviews to occur without taking custody. Schools need to be cooperative and open to CPS and LEA investigations to allow for safety of the children to be maintained. School policies need to allow for these to occur, where laws exist for children to be interviewed without consent of the parents.

Steven Ballard said...

I agree with your very good points, Michael, and so stated in response to your avvo post. I also posted a link to your blog on my law firm facebook page. Cheers, Steve

MLR said...

In response to a comment on LinkedIn.com in which an attorney asked me for the citation for the SCOTUS case I mentioned, Attorney Diane Redleaf wrote:

The case that was "supposed to deal with it" is ... Greene v. Camreta which was an appeal by the child protection investigation from a decision by the 9th Circuit that held that a non-consensual interrogation of a child at school without a warrant, probable cause, exigent circumstances or parental consent violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court granted review and the decided the case was moot after extensive briefing of the merits and the complex jurisdictional issues in the case. Our web site at www.family defensecenter.net has all the briefs that were filed in the case under "our cases and programs" (press Camreta). The mootness decision of the Supreme Court can be found at 131 S. Ct. 2020; 179 L. Ed. 2d 1118 (2011).

MLR said...

The Arlington, MA, policy is here: http://www.arlington.k12.ma.us/asc/policies/ki.pdf

The primary provision relevant to this discussion is:

VISITORS TO THE SCHOOLS
No persons except parents or guardians of children; those appointed for the purpose by the Committee; or those officially connected with the schools shall be allowed in the schools, unless permission is given by the Superintendent or his/her designee.

Anonymous said...

I know I am joining the discussion very late, but I recently had a Charter School not only deny DCF access to the child, but also only allowed them to view the child from a distance in the playground. Unfortunately, this reticence extended to child's counsel.

MLR said...

That's good to hear, Anonymous. The public school policies that I liked best would also apply to child's counsel. It should be easy enough for child's counsel to get parental permission or a court order to visit the child at school.

MLR said...

I recently had occasion to look at the Uxbridge (MA) Public Schools visitor, community relations and law enforcement relations policies. None said anything about DCF / DSS / CPS contacts with kids at school.

MLR said...

In a recent DCF Fair Hearing decision, the Administrative Hearing Officer wrote:

The Investigator did not obtain Appellants' permission to interview the children at school; however, I find her actions complied with Department regulations and Intake Policy, which respectively require that the Investigator "shall view" or "must see'; the children. I find that Department regulations do not preclude or prevent an interview with the children unless it is impractical or inappropriate to do so, since along with their caretakers they are considered primary sources of information. 110 CMR § 4.27(1) et seq.; DSS Protective Intake Policy 85-015(9); also see MGL c. 119 §51B(b).

MLR said...

Additional discussion at http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/cps-1853782.html#answer_4229041

MLR said...

The question came up again on avvo.com when a parent from Tampa, FL, asked about a sheriff interviewing her son at school without anyone even giving notice to the parents that there were concerns or that the child would be interviewed. Luckily, in that case, the sheriff found there was no abuse and closed the case. You can find my answer here - https://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/is-it-ok-for-a-sheriff-to-go-to-my-kids-school-to--2728754.html#answer_6757758