Pinellas County School system forces waive of children’s civil rights?

Dear Editor,

Why does the Pinellas County School System trick parents into waiving their children’s civil rights?

Last year the school required parents to sign a tear off sheet in the Student Code of Conduct that indicates that you have read (and agreed to) some specified highlights and that you agree to read the code in its entirety. You just agreed to waive your child’s fourth, fifth and sixth amendment rights. You agreed to allow the school to set up an interrogation chamber in the school for Law Enforcement to interrogate your child for something they suspect him of her of doing outside of school without you or a lawyer or anyone advocating for your child to be present. Schools are supposed to teach your children the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in life, they are not supposed to be an extension of the Criminal Justice System and they are not supposed to be a Pipeline to Prison.

The St Petersburg NAACP notified Superintendent Grego in person that this practice is egregious and unacceptable, and some changes were made. The notification regarding interrogations has been removed from the highlights, however they are still in the document. They do however require you to acknowledge their own version of State Statute 1006.13 that is completely incorrect.

You can get from the NAACP St Petersburg an alternative sheet to sign with a disclaimer that reads:

My Child does not consent to any searches; my child reserves the right to be silent in the event of a police interrogation and demands that both myself and our lawyer must be present for any police interrogation. Any attempt or assistance by the School or School Resource Officer to deny my child’s civil rights or coerce or trick my child into waiving those rights may result in a Civil Law Suit against the Principle, Superintendent and or the entire Pinellas County School System. Florida Statute 1006.13 mandates that “each school district shall adopt a policy of zero tolerance for crime and victimization”, not substance abuse.

NAACP St Petersburg made serious efforts to get the Pinellas County School System to adopt a district wide standardized discipline matrix and an agreement to handle a series of minor misdemeanors in house in a manner that is both predictable and fair to anyone regardless of socio economic status. An agreement modeled after Broward County which previous to that had the worst Prison to School Pipeline in the State, Pinellas was 4th worst (probably moved up to #3). They declined, they did however create a very watered down agreement and intend to have each school develop their own School-Wide Behavior Plan.

Much of the New Student Code of Conduct appears to be based on outdated Florida Statutes. They are required by law FS 1006.13 to ensure “that zero-tolerance policies must apply equally to all students regardless of their economic status, race, or disability”. Until they get their act together with a district wide standardized discipline matrix they may be in violation of State Law and have serious exposure to civil discrimination lawsuits. NAACP offered in good faith to assist in developing a proper Student Code of Conduct, Dr. Grego declined NAACP’s help.

If Pinellas County Schools doesn’t get their act together this year, NAACP will want all Pinellas County Parents to assist NAACP to push them to “Do the Right Thing!

Download this Parent Student Acknowledgement to protect your kids.

Download the PDF version.

Kurt Donley, Chairman Criminal Justice Committee NAACP St. Petersburg

www.naacpstpete.org

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