Should Schools Offer a ‘Youth-Friendly’ Miranda Warning?

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Should school-based police officers be required to use a Miranda warning that juveniles understand? A coalition dedicated to reforming school discipline in Maryland is asking the Baltimore school board to adopt a youth-specific Miranda warning about constitutional rights, reports the Baltimore Sun. Some say the clunky legalese of the traditional warning–“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”–is difficult for children and teens to understand. Seattle’s King County adopted a “youth-friendly” Miranda warning last year. It includes phrases such as, “It’s OK if you don’t want to talk to me” and “You have the right to talk to a free lawyer right now.”

The Miranda warning stems from a 1966 Supreme Court decision that determined police must advise suspects of their rights. The decision did not specify a particular script. Police agencies across the country use more than 800 variations, according to the American Psychological Association. The King County Sheriff’s Office says the “simplified warnings are consistent with research on adolescent brain science,” which shows juveniles often lack the perspective and judgment to avoid choices that are potentially detrimental. The Baltimore board, in the midst of considering new school police policies, is accepting feedback on their sweeping draft of regulations before a scheduled vote next month.

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