Last week the Stamford Advocate reported that several public high school principals will sit down with city officials to discuss the recent string of school violence arrests in the Stamford public high schools. These arrests—which stemmed from fights and bullying episodes at Stamford High School, Westhill High School and Stamford Academy—have caused concern among Stamford parents, as well as raised concerns over school violence in neighboring towns such as Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Fairfield, Westport and Norwalk.
Sure, the headlines and storylines are alarming, but parents need to understand that in reality, the public schools are not as dangerous as the headlines would lead you to believe…
Ask any top Stamford, Greenwich or Darien criminal lawyer / attorney and they will tell you the same thing—there are plenty of arrests arising in private schools in Fairfield County. The difference is that the private schools have no legal obligation to disclose these incidents to the media, and in fact, are incentivized not to publicize episodes and arrests involving school violence. To that end, the lawyers here at Mark Sherman Law routinely get calls about school assault investigations and what rights students and parents have to defend themselves against false accusations of fighting, assault, bullying or harassment in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and other Connecticut public and private schools.
Just because your child gets into a fight in the confines of high school or middle school does not mean that it’s not serious. Connecticut criminal law applies and sometimes the police will be called. Remember most of these schools have video and audio surveillance throughout the hallways, parking lots and classrooms so it’s more likely than not that the fight was recorded. If your child is contacted about a fight investigation, they should know to tell the investigators that they would immediately like to talk to their parents before speaking any further. Then the parents should contact a top Stamford or Greenwich Connecticut juvenile criminal lawyer/attorney to assist them in defending your child. If the school determines that your child is responsible for the fight, they can attempt to suspend, expel, discipline, and often will refer the matter to the local police department, where police can arrest your child for Disorderly Conduct, Breach of Peace in the Second Degree, Criminal Mischief (for damaging school property) or Assault in the Second or Third Degrees. Obviously if your child is arrested or presented for expulsion proceedings, you should contact a top Stamford or Greenwich criminal lawyer to assist you.
One of the first responders to a fight or any other kind of emergency in a Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan public high school or middle school is usually the SRO—also known as the School Resource Officer. This is usually a uniformed, local police officer whose job is to handle all security-related issues in the school. The SRO is assigned to the school for the entire year and is uniquely positioned in the school to communicate directly with parents, school officials and local police. While SROs would prefer to mediate disputes and altercations between students without an arrest, they have power to effectuate arrests and put your child in juvenile detention (if they are under 18), or county jail (if they are 18 or over). Probably most important for parents to realize is that when you or your child communicate with the SRO, anything you say or your child says to the officer can and will be used against you or your child.
One great resource for your middle or high school child that I’ve recently learned a lot about is “The Depot”—the youth center in Darien, Connecticut. The Depot’s executive director Janice Marzano has built this youth center into a safe haven for Darien’s teenagers. There, they can socialize in an alcohol and substance free environment. She’s a caring, no-nonsense leader who has earned the trust and respect of Darien teenagers, their parents, town officials, and law enforcement over the past 15 years. Take a look at her website—the programs they offer are unique and dynamic—including SafeRides and a monthly closed-door town hall type conversation with Darien’s Youth Detectives.
So do not let the recent headlines regarding school violence fool you. These kind of problems arise regularly in both public and private schools. And while each school and municipality handles their investigations and disciplinary procedures differently, a common denominator among all of these school systems is that the student and his or her parents are rarely advised of their legal rights until a suspension, expulsion or criminal arrest process gets started. If your child is involved in a school violence investigation, or has been arrested for Disorderly Conduct, Assault, Breach of Peace or Bullying in the Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan public schools, or anywhere else in Connecticut, call an experienced school violence criminal defense attorney at Mark Sherman Law. We can assist you and your family through the school discipline proceedings and work aggressively in an attempt to get any criminal charges dropped. Contact us today at (203) 358-4700. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.