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Please begin with an informative title:

The chances are increasing that your child will be arrested for being a child and behaving in a childish fashion at school. Behavior that once got a child a trip to the principal’s office or detention will now get them booked at the police station. Doubt me? Look it up: a 5 year old arrested for having a temper tantrum in kindergarten and a 12 year old arrested for scribbling on a desk, a 13 year old boy was arrested for burping, a 5th grader arrested for giving a wedgie, and I’m sure you can find more.

It’s never too early to teach your child what to do if they get arrested at school for normal behavior, as demonstrated by the arrest of the above children.

So what do you teach your child?

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Pretty much the same things you would do yourself, but the most important one is to teach your child to tell the arresting police officer, “I want a lawyer.” School officials and police officers won’t call the parents, because they don’t think parents have any need to know their child is being removed from the school. In the case of the 5 year old, it wasn’t the school principal who called the parents or the police – it was a guidance counselor who felt the need to inform the mother. Teach your child those critical 4 words – “I want a lawyer” – the police by law have to respect that regardless of the age of the arrestee.

I am not a lawyer or a police officer, but almost everyone in my family is in law enforcement - highway patrol, county sheriffs, lake patrol, city police, police detectives, police forensics...this is what they advise and told me and my children to do.  The two most important things are:  Say the two sentences and nothing else, and don't touch the police. Other things may vary from state to state, but the gist of the following can help keep your child safe.  That "I want a lawyer" sentence will be the lifesaver for your child - the lawyer will call you and take care of the child. If you teach your child nothing else, teach them to say "I want a lawyer" as soon as the police arrive.

The older the child is, the more you can teach, but start with those 4 life-saving words. “I want a lawyer.” Even a three year old can learn to say that. You may need to teach your three year old to say that if day cares start emulating schools and calling the police on minor disciplinary issues. Play-act it with toy handcuffs, or even real ones. zip tie or metal – those are easy enough to find at flea markets. When the handcuffs come out, teach the child to say, “I want a lawyer.” Make it a game when they are young, and re-enforce it as they age.

Teach the child not to touch or gesture towards the police.  Teach them to put their hands on their heads when they see a police officer.  Again, make it a game. "What do we do when we see a nice policeman?  We put our hands on our heads!"

As they get older, teach them the following things:

Don’t argue with the police. That’s what the lawyer is for.

Don’t run. Don't run from or to the police. Move slowly if you have to move at all.

Don’t touch the police officer – even to catch yourself if you’re falling. Take the fall.

Don't gesture towards the police, not even friendly gestures like waving or handshakes. Don't flip them off, wave a finger at them, spit anywhere near them, wave your arms around, speak in ASL or other finger languages, or make any move the police didn't specifically tell you to make - have the child put their hands on their head.

Don’t talk to the police. If your child is old enough to drive and they are driving a car when stopped, they must show driver’s license, registration, and insurance, but they don’t have to say anything.

If the child has been reasonably detained, police will ask for a name, and the child must give it unless they are afraid giving their name will make matters worse, in which case, they can plead the right to remain silent. The sentence then becomes "I want a lawyer and I plead the right to remain silent." The police will hate it, but it is the child's right.

Teach your child that anything they say – anything, no matter how innocent it may sound – can be twisted against your child so silence is the best action.

Keep your hands where the police can see them. If you think you need something in your pocket or backpack or purse, you usually don’t (unless it’s lifesaving medication, in which you explain calmly to the arresting officer you are ill and need the medication and let them get it for you.)

Don’t resist the arrest, innocent or not. The police are predisposed to believe everyone is guilty of something even if it’s not the crime for which they are currently arresting your child.

Don’t complain to the officer on the scene.

Don’t tell the police they are wrong.

Don’t tell the police you are going to file a complaint.

Do not make any statement regarding the incident at all.

Remember the police officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number.

Write down everything you remember about the contact with the police ASAP.

Try to find witnesses and get their names and numbers.

If your child is injured by the police, seek medical attention ASAP and have them take pictures.

Take pictures yourself of any injuries your child sustains in the arrest.

If you feel your child’s rights have been violated, file a written complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board as soon as possible.

Your child does not have to consent to a search of themselves. Police may pat down the outside of your child’s clothing if they suspect a weapon, but they do not have the right to search further. That’s one of the things those magic 4 words “I want a lawyer” protects your child from.

Your child needs to specifically ask, “Am I under arrest?” – another important 4 words. If your child is under arrest, your child has a right to know why. And the police have to tell them.

If your child is given a ticket while driving, they do have to sign the ticket. It can be fought later.

If your child is taken to the police station, teach your child to remain silent and to speak only to a lawyer. If you don’t have a family lawyer, teach your child to ask for one – they have the right to a free one and the police have to tell them how to get one.

Don’t talk to the police even at the station – use those 4 word sentences: “I want a Lawyer” and “Am I under arrest?”.

I hope your child is never arrested by the police for such spurious things as bringing a toy to school or scribbling on a desk, but we have proof that schools will call the police over these trivial things and police will follow through and arrest your child instead of telling the school this is an internal school affair and not a police matter.

If your child knows what to do, the trauma is reduced. Not eliminated, but reduced. As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children how to survive, and this is unfortunately yet another thing we have to consider.

Briefly:

Under the age of 6:

Teach your child to say "I want a lawyer" as soon as they see handcuffs.  Include the "zip tie" cuffs as well as the metal cuffs.
Teach your child to put their hands on their head when a police officer talks to them.

Between 6 and 10:

Don't run from the police.
Don't argue with the police.
Say, "I want a lawyer."
Don't touch the police officer at all.
Don't gesture towards the police: no finger waving, no flipping the finger, no waving arms, no shaking hands, no speaking in ASL, nothing they can and will interpret as a hostile move.
Don't talk other than giving your name and saying "I want a lawyer": "My name is __ and I want lawyer."
Ask "Am I under arrest?"

Between age 10 and receiving a driver's license:

Don’t argue with the police.
Don’t run from the police.
Don’t touch the police officer.
Don't gesture towards the police: no finger waving, no flipping the finger, no spitting, no waving arms, no shaking hands, no speaking in ASL, nothing they can interpret as a hostile move - and that's every movement except the ones they specifically tell you to make.
Don’t talk to the police other than the 2 sentences: "My name is _ and I want a lawyer" and "Am I under arrest?".
Keep your hands where the police can see them.
Do not consent to a search.
Don’t resist the arrest, innocent or not.
Don’t complain to the officer on the scene.
Don’t tell the police they are wrong.
Don’t tell the police you are going to file a complaint.
Do not make any statement regarding the incident at all.
Remember the police officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number.
Write down everything you remember about the contact with the police ASAP.
Try to find witnesses and get their names and numbers.
At the police station, stay silent except for the 2 sentences until a lawyer is present.
Talk only to the lawyer.

Driving age and up:

Don’t argue with the police.
Don’t run from the police.
Don’t touch the police officer.
Don't gesture towards the police: no finger waving, no flipping the finger, no spitting, no waving arms, no shaking hands, no speaking in ASL, nothing they can interpret as a hostile move - and that's every movement except the ones they specifally tell you to make.
Don’t talk to the police other than the 2 sentences: "My name is _ and I want a lawyer" and "Am I under arrest?".
Show driver’s license, registration, and insurance if stopped while driving.
If you do not have a driver's license and are stopped while driving and you feel giving your name would make matters worse, you can say: "I want a lawyer and I plead the right to remain silent" and not say anything else.  You will be arrested.
Passengers do not have to show a driver's license, but they must give their name, unless they feel it can cause problems, in which case they ask for a lawyer and plead the right to remain silent:  "I want a lawyer and I plead the right to remain silent."
Sign the ticket.  It can be fought later, if necessary.
Keep your hands where the police can see them.
Do not consent to a search. Police can do a pat down on the outside of clothes.
Don’t resist the arrest, innocent or not.
Don’t complain to the officer on the scene.
Don’t tell the police they are wrong.
Don’t tell the police you are going to file a complaint.
Do not make any statement regarding the incident at all.
Remember the police officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number.
Write down everything you remember about the contact with the police ASAP.
Try to find witnesses and get their names and numbers.
At the police station, stay silent except for the 2 sentences until a lawyer is present.
Talk only to the lawyer.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 09:11 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Community Spotlight.

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