US Supreme Court Holds that Student’s Statement to Teacher can be Admitted at Trial

by Shipman & Goodwin LLP
Contact

The U.S. Supreme Court (the “Court”) recently issued a unanimous decision as to whether or not prosecutors could introduce statements at trial when a child is not available for cross examination. The Court’s decision has implications for school districts when it seeks to introduce a student’s statements at a hearing without the student being available for questioning at the hearing.

In Ohio v. Clark, the Court was asked to review a decision by the Supreme Court of Ohio about testimony provided by a teacher at trial as to what a student told her concerning possible abuse from a caretaker. L.P., a three-year old child, was dropped off at preschool where a teacher noticed injuries on the student. When questioned, the student stated the nickname of his adult caretaker.  At trial the student’s statement was introduced by the prosecution but the child was not available to testify directly or be questioned by the defense. The defense moved to exclude L.P.’s testimony, which was denied by the trial court. Upon appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed.

In reversing the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court, the Court considered the application of the Confrontation Clause, which prohibits the introduction of statements by a non-testifying witness unless that witness is unavailable to testify and the defendant had a prior opportunity to question the witness. The Court looked as to whether or not the primary purpose of the conversation with the student was to gather evidence for the prosecution of the accused. Noting that the child’s statements occurred in the context of an ongoing emergency involving suspected child abuse, the Court held that “there is no indication that the primary purpose of the conversation was to gather evidence for [the defendant’s] prosecution.” In arriving at this decision, the Court went on to note that statements by your children “will rarely, if ever, implicate the Confrontation Clause.”

In its explanation of its decision, the Court noted that although it was not adopting a rule that statements to individuals who are not law enforcement officers are outside of the restrictions of the Confrontation Clause, it did find that the fact that the student “was speaking to his teachers remains highly relevant.” The Court noted that “it is common sense that the relationship between a student and his teacher is very different from that between a citizen and the police.” The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that Ohio’s mandatory reporting requirement served to equate the student’s teachers with the police, stating that it was “irrelevant” that the teacher’s questions and duty to report the matter had a tendency of resulting in the defendant’s prosecution.

The Court’s ruling has implications whenever a student, particularly a young student, provides statements to a teacher or administrator as part of an investigation. The possibility of a young student being questioned in the context of a hearing has always been a source of concern for school officials who seek to utilize the student’s statements. Although not a blanket rule, the Court’s decision does carve out instances where a student’s statements can be offered at a hearing without the need to make the student available for questioning.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Shipman & Goodwin LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Shipman & Goodwin LLP
Contact
more
less

Shipman & Goodwin LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.