Schools Ordered to Protect Children’s Right to Presence of Third Persons at Investigative Interviews

The Washington Legislature has ordered the state’s school directors to develop a policy for providing companions to children who are interviewed at school by police and CPS. The legislature did so by passing Senate Bill 5316.

When police or Child Protective Services suspect a child has suffered abuse or neglect, they often interview the child about that at school. Most children can be readily found at school, and parents are not there to interfere with the interview.

Washington law has long required investigators to have a third person attend an interview of a child unless the child objects or the presence of a third person would jeopardize the investigation. As one parent testified during a hearing on this bill, this law is not always followed during interviews at school. The school directors are now required to develop a model policy so that the child’s right will be respected.

The school directors’ association is to consult with law enforcement and the Department of Social and Health Services in developing its model policy.