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These tips from the PACER Center provide a brief summary of information for parents of children or teens with disabilities at risk of arrest by police at school or in the community.
Your child may:
These rules apply whether the police want to talk with your child or teen in the community or at school. Anything said at school to a school administrator, police liaison officer, or a police officer can be used against your child in court.
Teach your child or teen to ask for an attorney and a parent.
Prepare a script about what to do if an officer stops or wants to speak with your child or teen in the community or at school. Practice appropriate responses. Make sure your child or teen understands what to say to police. Stress that they should be polite to the police.
Stress that your child or teen cannot challenge an officer in any way.
Teach your child or teen that they should not:
If the police tell your child or teen they just want to talk about what happened and then they can go home, tell your child or teen to say that they cannot answer questions unless an adult they know and an attorney are present.
If the police tell your child or teen that others have said they committed the crime, tell your child or teen to say that a parent and attorney must be present before they will speak or sign a statement.
If your child or teen has an IEP and you think they could be questioned or arrested at school:
If you are concerned that your child or teen’s disability puts them at higher risk for police involvement, meet with the police officers in your neighborhood.
The rights of children and teens are similar to those of adults if the police stop them or they are questioned by anyone regarding a criminal or formal complaint.
Any information your child or teen shares can be used against them in court. In many states, a parent does not have to be present when a child or teen is questioned. Find out what the laws are in your state about police contacting parents when their child is brought in for questioning.
The most important thing to remember is that your child or teen should not sign anything or answer questions without someone like a parent, guardian or attorney present.
This resource created by The PACER Center