It is common sense that the relationship between a student and his teacher is very different from that between a citizen and the police.
In October 2014 I wrote about the case of Ohio v. Clark. On June 18, 2015 the Supreme Court issued its decision determining that statements from minors, made to a mandatory reporter, can be repeated by the mandatory reporter in criminal trials against the accused abuser. The primary issues of the case were whether mandatory reporters are serving as “law enforcement” when interviewing children about suspected abuse and whether the statements made by the children are “testimony” about the alleged abuse. The Court ruled that mandatory reporters are NOT “law enforcement” because their purpose isn’t to uncover and prosecute criminal behavior.
When an individual receives statements designed to be used for evidence or prosecution they are considered “testimony” and cannot be repeated unless the accused has an opportunity to confront the accuser. This is the general constitutional protection under the 6th Amendment. The Court found that in this situation, statements to the teacher about abuse were made in order to protect the child, not to build a case against the abuser. Because the statements weren’t “testimony” and the teacher wasn’t “law enforcement” the defendant did not have a constitutional right to confront (cross examine) the minor children who made the statements.
For more information about the Court’s ruling and reasoning, visit the National School Boards Association summary.
As I said back in October, my biggest concern about the case is whether or not prosecutors are now going to be able to subpoena mandatory reporters and force them to testify about the statements children make to them.
Johanna R. Kirk