Must Police Obtain a Warrant or Consent Before Interviewing Child at School?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether police and social workers must obtain a warrant, court order, or parental consent before interviewing children at school about claims of sexual abuse.

An Oregon police officer and protective services worker argue that, because details of child sex abuse are known only to the victim and the perpetrator … police may not have sufficient evidence to support a warrant. They say they need the authority to interview an alleged victim without the parents’ consent or presence. These interviews often take place at school.

In December 2009, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the investigators violated the child’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure when they interviewed her at school without a warrant, court order, parental consent, or exigent circumstances.

The Ninth Circuit also held that the investigators were entitled to qualified immunity because they could have believed that they were not violating a clearly established right of the student to be free from such a seizure at school.

The Supreme Court consolidated the investigators’ cases [Camreta v. Greene, et al. (09-1454) and Alford v. Greene, et al. (09-1478)] and will hear oral arguments later in this term.

Questions Presented:
(1) Whether the traditional warrant/warrant exception requirements that apply to seizures of suspected criminals should apply to an interview of the child in light of reports of child abuse, or whether instead a balancing standard should apply; and
(2) whether the Ninth Circuit’s constitutional ruling is reviewable, notwithstanding that it ruled in the petitioner’s favor on qualified immunity grounds.

Twenty-seven states filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief on behalf of the investigators, and asked the Court to hear the case. The child’s mother filed a brief in opposition, and urged the justices not to disturb the 9th Circuit’s ruling.

More About this Case

Court to rule on child interviews (Scotusblog)

Court to rule on child interviews

Justices to Weigh Police Questioning at School (School Law Blog)

Briefs and Documents

Decision by the Ninth Circuit

Petition for Certiorari

Brief in Opposition

Amicus Brief of States

We will post updates on this case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Please help us defeat spam. Thank you. *