Accused of Wrongdoing at School: How Should a Student Respond to Questions & Accusations?
By Shirley Tang
The short answer is: Do not respond until it is safe to. When a student is accused of wrongdoing at school and questioned by a school official or School Resource Officer (SRO), he/she needs to treat the situation prudently. However, the child cannot treat it prudently unless you – the parent or guardian – well prepare him/her so.
This includes preparing your child not to answer any questions**, and not even nod, unless it is necessary so at the time of questioning or interrogation. In most situations, it is not necessary. A child should not respond to accusation of wrongdoing at least until his/her parent or guardian arrives at school and serves as a witness to the questioning.
The reason being: school authorities might misinterpret or, worse yet, misjudge what the student is trying to express. A very young child is especially vulnerable to this possibility. Even nodding can be dangerous, as the school authority might interpret the gesture as an admission of guilt.
Therefore, parents should coach their children beforehand to say this when they are accused of wrongdoing at school and questioned by school authorities: “I would like my parent to be here before I respond. Please contact my parent now.”
Unfortunately, children are taught to automatically answer questions when asked, and parents seldom coach them not to.
** What if the question from the school authority is, “Can I search you and your book-bag?”? This needs a proper response. For more information on how to handle Search and Seizure, please read Right #3 under my post: 15 Laws, Rights to Protect Your Child vs Unfair School Discipline or Treatment.
Accused of wrongdoing at school: 3 girls. 1 response. 1 big mistake.
In a wintry day in January, 2007, teacher Mr. N suddenly pulled three girls, X, Y and Z (my daughter), out of his classroom to the hallway. They had no clue that something was about to turn their lives upside down.