Thursday, July 3, 2008

Treatment of Children

Here is an interesting case, that I have been working on for a month or so:

The case actually started long before my client got involved when a young girl got left behind on a school bus. She had fallen asleep on the ride to school and the bus driver allegedly failed to check before parking the bus in the garage. Later the girl awoke and managed to find help, but not before she picked up some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The parent of the little girl sued (with someone other than me handling that case).

Flash forward a few months and the little girl's brother and his friend (my client) were riding the bus to school. When they arrived, the same bus driver held them back and accused them of being bullies. When she had finished talking to them, as they were exiting the bus, she cuffed them on the back of the head.

As they were supposed to do, they reported the incident to the principal. Their parents were called to school and it was agreed that the bus driver would be assigned to another route. My client's parents thought that it would end there, but later that day received a call from the local police department asking them to come in.

When they arrived at the police station, they were separated from their son, who was taken into an interrogation room and questioned for about four hours. During this time, although a children's services worker was present, he was denied the right to talk to his parents. He was told that he was going to detention and would never see his parents again - unless he said that he lied about the bus driver hitting him. Eventually, he said she lied, but refused to sign anything. When it was explained to the parents, they refused to sign, too.

He then gets charged with making a false statement to the police. He is 11 years old.

He had his initial appearance in juvenile court a couple weeks ago and the case is set for trial in mid-July. This is one that will almost certainly be headed for civil court once we dispose of the criminal charge.

When I explained to the District Attorney how the child was handled, she just shrugged. As if that was normal. I can't believe that we've gotten to the point where we would condone treating children that way. Children should have a parent present at all times during questioning. A children's services worker is not a parent. They are an employee of the state. A child who has had no contact with them will not trust them like a parent. Only a parent should be able to waive a child's rights and permit him to make a statement.


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