I was surprised to learn that police can question a minor without the presence, permission, or even notification of the minor's legal guardian. (Even when investigating a matter unrelated to the guardian.) Apparently children can even be Mirandized! Which means that in theory they can demand a lawyer if questioned. Do they also have a right to demand their guardian?

Since schools are pseudo guardians are there any restraints on school authorities detaining and questioning a minor, if that minor demands they stop and summon his legal guardian?

Or, to put it more flavorfully: Does a minor saying, "I want my mommy" have the same legal effect as an adult saying, "I want my lawyer"? (Or can a school respond, "From 8AM to 3PM we are your Mommy!)


Does a minor saying, "I want my mommy" have the same legal effect as an adult saying, "I want my lawyer"?


If a suspect in police custody asks for a lawyer, the interview must stop.

If the suspect invokes [assistance of counsel during custodial interrogation] at any time, the police must immediately cease questioning him until an attorney is present.
Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 114 S.Ct. 2350, 129 L.Ed.2d 362 (1994)

This is known as the Edwards Rule because it was born in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981)

It doesn't work this way in school because interrogations by school officials are not subject to Miranda. This is important because the reason for the Edwards Rule is preventing officers from badgering a suspect into waiving his previously asserted Miranda rights. See Davis.

There is no authority requiring a school administrator not acting on behalf of law enforcement officials to furnish Miranda warnings.
Com. v. Snyder, 597 N.E.2d 1363, 413 Mass. 521 (Mass., 1992)

New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 105 S.Ct. 733, 83 L.Ed.2d 720 (1984) held that teachers and school administrators do not act in loco parentis in their dealings with students. "In carrying out searches and other disciplinary functions pursuant to such policies, school officials act as representatives of the State, not merely as surrogates for the parents."

The point to all that is to say that school officials do not need to change course at all when a student asks for a parent.

Schools do need to question students.

A school official must have leeway to question students regarding activities that constitute either a violation of the law or a violation of school rules. This latitude is necessary to maintain discipline, to determine whether a student should be excluded from the school, and to decide whether further protection is needed for the student being questioned or for others.
State v. Biancamano, 666 A.2d 199, 284 N.J.Super. 654 (N.J. Super. A.D., 1995)

Perhaps the better way to ask the question is - if the school interrogates the child and refuses to contact a parent upon request by the child, is there any recourse by the child or his family?

20 U.S.C. § 6736(a)(2) provides immunity for teachers:

(a) Liability protection for teachers Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, no teacher in a school shall be liable for harm caused by an act or omission of the teacher on behalf of the school if...the actions of the teacher were carried out in conformity with Federal, State, and local laws (including rules and regulations) in furtherance of efforts to control, discipline, expel, or suspend a student or maintain order or control in the classroom or school.

States have passed their own similar laws. For example, Colorado:

22-12-104. Liability.
(1) An educational entity and its employees are immune from suit for taking an action regarding the supervision, grading, suspension, expulsion, or discipline of a student while the student is on the property of the educational entity or under the supervision of the educational entity or its employees

So, if a student is being questioned by a teacher or administrator, and asks for a parent, there is no federal or state law which requires the interview to stop.

Once arrested, the parent question varies by state and you get some information about this in the link you provide. This memo does a good job of summarizing a few states' laws. Basically, most states require the police to initiate various levels of parent involvement for kids under 18. Some states make exceptions to this rule for 16 and/or 17 years olds.

Also, many state laws require certain action by the school (in regards to contacting parents) when police come to the school to interview students. There is an amazing volume called Compendium Of School Discipline Laws And Regulations For The 50 States, District Of Columbia And The U.S. Territories which provides a lot of these rules.

  • 2
    "condition his staying..." can he? Students do not have the right to leave school just because they want to. It's not like an adult (who can always go home if not detained); a student is really pre-detained at school.
    – cpast
    Oct 8 '15 at 3:38
  • 1
    @cpast while I don't accept the notion that a student is "detained" at school, assuming it's true, that does not mean the student must stay in a room with an interrogator. But more to the point, students are not under arrest at school, they are free to leave. They may face consequences, but only law enforcement can detain people. A cop can order you to stop and taze you if you don't comply. The principal can't do that.
    – jqning
    Oct 8 '15 at 4:20
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    The more I look into this the more astonished I am. E.g., There is no federal law banning the controversial practices of restraint and seclusion. "This could mean something like using tape or rope to restrain a child in his seat. It could mean holding a student facedown on the ground. Seclusion is when a teacher or administrator puts a student in a locked room separate from other students." So it appears children can't just leave.
    – feetwet
    Oct 8 '15 at 12:29
  • 1
    Yet in other countries, such practises are indeed illegal as an implied case of unlawful restraint or kidnapping, or sometimes explicitly in laws regarding children's welfare or regulations on the behaviour of educational institutions and staff. @feetwet It is however unsurprising that no such law exists at the federal level, since education regulation is largely devolved to states and even down to the locality, de facto the school itself.
    – Nij
    May 29 '19 at 4:37

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