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Supreme Court to decide schoolchildren's rights

A student questioned on campus argues that police should have given him a Miranda warning.

November 02, 2010|By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court said Monday it would explore the rights of schoolchildren who were questioned by the police, the second time in recent weeks it has delved into student issues.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal from a 13-year-old burglary suspect from North Carolina and decide whether children who are questioned by the police at school must be warned of their rights under the famous Miranda decision.

In the past, the court has said that people who are in police custody and are not "free to leave" must be warned they have a right to remain silent. It is not clear whether the same rule applies to students.

Last year, the North Carolina Supreme Court said that a student being questioned by an officer at school was not in custody and therefore need not be warned of his rights. The case concerned a seventh-grader in Chapel Hill who was taken from a special education class and questioned by a police investigator and the assistant principal. His appeal, in J.D.P. vs. North Carolina, argued that the young man should have been told of his rights and given a chance to consult with a parent.

It will be the second case this term to focus on the questioning of children at school. Last month, the justices said they would decide whether police could question a child at school to ask whether she was a victim of sexual abuse at home. Ruling in an Oregon case, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the police needed a search warrant before they began such an investigation.

The court also agreed to decide a big-money dispute over who will profit from federally funded research. Stanford University says a 1980 law makes clear that the university — not a researcher — holds the patent to inventions that arise from federally funded projects. Stanford is appealing a recent ruling that said a prominent AIDS researcher who worked there could assign his patent rights to a private drug company.

The Obama administration, agreeing with Stanford, urged the court to hear the appeal and to rule for the university.

david.savage@latimes.com

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