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School Boards Associations Urge Supreme Court to Overturn Camreta v. Greene Decision

March 3, 2011

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the California School Boards Association (CSBA) are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Camreta v. Greene, noting that schools must “act in a manner that protects the safety and welfare of the children in their care.”

The case, which was heard on Tuesday by the Supreme Court and will be decided before the Court’s term ends in June, arose when a child protective services worker and police officer interviewed a student at an Oregon elementary school because they suspected her father was sexually abusing her.

The girl’s mother later sued the school district, alleging that the caseworker and police officer violated the Fourth Amendment’s “search and seizure” protections when they interviewed her child. NSBA, joined by the Oregon School Boards Association and the California School Boards Association, filed an amicus brief in this case in December 2010.

In December 2009, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the girl’s mother, saying that police and child welfare officials need a warrant, court order, parent consent, or emergency conditions to interview a child at school.
Schools are frequently called to assist child protective services agencies and law enforcement personnel in investigating reports of child abuse or neglect by permitting interviews of students at school, NSBA’s amicus brief notes. In some states school officials are legally bound to cooperate.

“Encouraging cooperation between schools and child protective agencies is sound public policy that advances the ability of schools to safeguard the safety and welfare of the children in their care,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s Executive Director.

“The ability of schools to protect students should not be chilled by the fear of making the wrong constitutional determination about the actions of law enforcement or child protective services as they investigate alleged abuse against a child,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA's General Counsel.  “The Supreme Court should issue a ruling that does not place schools in the untenable position of either risking a lawsuit or denying law enforcement/protective services access that may be in a child’s best interest.”

Source:  NSBA.