February 25, 2010

Racine Unified considers rules for police in schools; Officers would have to notify principal before interviewing students

If police want to question students in Racine Unified schools they'll need to notify the principal first, according to a new policy being considered by the School Board.

The board is considering the policy after a Horlick High School teacher was fined $200 for asking a police officer if they had a warrant to take a student out of a classroom. (Read the full policy here.)

Teacher Al Levie was fined in November 2008 after police pulled a student out of his classroom. Levie was fined after asking the officer a single question. Municipal Judge Mark Nielsen threw out the ticket in May 2009, but the city appealed Nielsen's decision and won. (Ironically, the student involved was not charged.)

In response to Levie's fine, Racine Unified reviewed its policies for law enforcement officers in schools. They're now considering a proposal that would allow police to pull students out of classes for interrogation, but only after notifying the school's principal. The principal, or a designee, would also have to be present when police interviewed the student.

Under the proposed "Guidelines for Law Enforcement Questioning and Apprehension," parents would not have to be notified if the questioning was meant to gather information about an incident.

If the policy had been in place in November 2008, the officers would have had to notify Horlick's principal they were going to question the student in Levie's class. The student would then have been escorted to the office where they would be questioned by an officer in front of the principal or another school official.

The policy also gives students the right not to talk to police, if the student isn't being arrested. For example, if police want to interview a witness to an incident, the student does not have to answer questions, under the proposed policy.

Despite having to pay the ticket, Levie said he was happy with the new policy and hoped the School Board approved it. "If my ticket prompted them to change the policy, it was worth it," he said.

The new policy is now pending before the School Board. To provide feedback on the policy, send an email to: info@racine.k12.wi.us


  1. "Teacher Al Levie was fined in November 2008 after police pulled a student out of his classroom. Levie was fined after asking the officer a single question. Municipal Judge Mark Nielsen threw out the ticket in May 2009, but the city appealed Nielsen's decision and won. (Ironically, the officer did not involved was not charged.)"

    Dustin, this paragraph makes it sound as though Levie was fined for asking a question. The fine was for obstructing an officer. Also, it is not at all clear why the officer not being charged is somehow ironic. None of the previous articles mention or even insinuate that the officer violated the law. So where is the irony?

  2. Forcing the police to report to the principal before they can perform their duty is by itself "obstruction" by school officials. With the discipline problems in RUSD, they should be supporting the police effort, instead of obstructing it!

  3. I hope Unified isn't considering having their principals check with their attendance offices before giving the cops the "OK". Who knows how long it will take the attendance office to determine if the kid is in school or truant.

  4. I hope that RUSD gets a legal opinion on this one. I don't think any school administrator has the legal right to interfere with public safety.

    I don't think this is well thought out. It appears to be another knee jerk reaction to a single event where the teacher was out of line.

    I don't want to hear about a student or teacher that was injured or killed because law enforcement was waiting to meet with a school official before doing their job.

    Public safety has a very specific role in our community. Schools aren't charged with deciding when they can do that role. RUSD has more important things to do than get in the way of public safety.

  5. Racine Unified might consider that there are already rules in place that govern the actions of police officers in schools - those rules are called laws and there is a process already in place to change the laws if necessary. Last time I checked, Racine Unified was not the institution entrusted with that duty.

  6. This is ridiculous. The police need warrants. I don't think they are protected by law to enter a classroom and take a minor for questioning without a warrant. Maybe in China, but I would think not here.

    I applaud RUSD for ensuring someone be present with children who are at school and pulled out for questioning. If it is just questioning then why not wait til a break or the end of the day?

    I am not willing to give up my rights for a little temporary safety and a wise man once said it better. (Benjamin Franklin)

    I am glad that we are still looking into and reporting on this situation because I found it unjustified.

  7. I applaud the school district for this sane policy and the teacher for giving us another good lesson in honorable behavior through his comments about how the ticket now seems worthwhile. I'm glad we have this kind of principled leadership in our schools.

  8. Unified used to have a policy that required principal approval and RUSD staff member being present during the interview. If there is not a warrant or an emergency situation the student in school should not be treated differently than they would be at home or anywhere else. We are not living in a police state -- yet !!

  9. Annon 10:09 is trying to give rights where they don't exist. The school is a public building and not like ones home where a warrant is needed to enter or search. Schools like the workplace don't have such protections. School officials and public safety have the right to enter lockers and question students without a warrant. There is no more assumption of privacy in the school environment than there is for the workplace. Outside of student records there is not privacy protection or protection from the law.

    Clearly you have never worked in a school setting or you would know that events can move quickly from peaceful to fights in seconds. Riots have broken out in various high schools over the years in minutes. The idea that police need to wait for a school official permission before they can enter a school and address an issue is crazy. Your vision of school as an idilic place of joy and learning is not based in the real world. I am a former teacher who carries scars and broken bones from my years in the classroom. I wouldn't want the police to have to go through the front office to protect me and the students. I wish your vision of the classroom was real, but it isn't.

    RUSD stick to what you are charged to do, not become legal gatekeepers. My guess is that you wouldn't be very good at it because it requires quick thinking.

  10. If I were looking after another's child and the police wanted to question that child, I think I would try to contact the parents, too.

    Perhaps the schools should consider this step as well.

  11. How ironic all these personal liberty types are so keen to abandon the rights kids have with the additional hypocrisy that these are children.

    Why? Because they see Unified kids as the problem and not the future and treasure of our community.

    We should support their individual rights, understand that teachers and principals are symbolic guardians while in their care and not reflexively give them up to a government entity without asking a single question.

    I'm sure if the police showed up at school and pulled out one of Navratil's kids with no notice or explanation he'd be just fine with that.

  12. Anon 11:04, I have and will continue to issue my own thoughts on this subject and others. In other words, please stop making up things that you imagine about me. Just to clarify, I am not interested in abandoning the rights of children, I do not think that Unified children are "the problem", nor would I seek any special legal considerations for my own child. So anon, that you think that police but not public school teachers are part of a government entity demonstrates that you are having difficulty thinking for yourself. Please don't take on the additional responsibility of thinking for me.

  13. Anon, 11:04,

    Teachers and principals are more than symbolic guardians of our children. They are legally responsible for our children while they are at school, just as if they were the real parents, and I'd expect them to act as any responsible parent would - ask questions about why a child's being questioned, watch after them so their rights are protected and, then, contact the real parents so they can further act in their children's best interests.

  14. So school policy trumps the law? Since when?

  15. Heather in Caledonia2/25/2010 12:08 PM

    Anon 11:04 - surprise, but public schools are a government entity.

  16. Send your kids to one of the private schools in town - this issue will never be a problem as these schools have no need for police officers in the school - private schools are not like the RUSD prisons.

  17. Denis -

    My bad. The sentence should have read: "Ironically, the student involved was not charged."

    I made the change in the story.

  18. Thanks for the clarification Dustin. By the way, a previous RP article on the subject quoted one Al Levie saying that Racine Unified would have a response to this incident. Do you know whether Al Levie, president of Horlick's teachers union, initiated this policy proposal?

  19. Anon, 11:57,

    No, school policy doesn't trump law. Students (or anybody, for that matter) have a right not to answer questions from the police, and parents (or school authorities in place of them) have a responsibility for children and the right to ask to be present for any questioning. You seem to be the one suggesting that we ignore the law in schools, not the other way around.

  20. Denis at 2:34 - one might wonder if Mr. Levie not only initiated the proposal in question, but if he is Dustin's source for this article.

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. I think some people have a misunderstanding of warrants. There are different types. A search warrant enables empowered officials to look for physical evidence of crime. The other type of warrant is an arrest warrant, where a court has already determined that the subject of the warrant - a person - is subject to arrest. There's no question that school property is subject to search, even without a warrant. But taking custody of a person is subject to a warrant, unless there's immediate, proximate probable cause relative to a crime, to take that person into custody. It makes sense that school officials should inquire of police whether they have a warrant for a person before they turn over a person for whom they have ultimate responsibility. If there is no warrant to turn over that person, then the least school officials should request is an explanation from police why they want that person, why it is an immediate concern relative to an immediate danger or ongoing crime, and why the parents of the child should or should not be notified.

    To do otherwise would simply be irresponsible for any responsible adult in charge of children.

  23. S.F. Gates said...

    I truly wonder if Racine will ever emerge from ---

    IT seems to be a city of
    caterpillars and cocoons ----
    but has so few


    These are not rosey cheeked little kids we are talking about. These are CRIMINALS and THUGS in schoold today regardless of their age. Many of these are carrying guns in thier cars and on them to school. Dont be so friggen knieve. Wake up people. Ive seen this first hand. So innocent and respectful in person until you see thier mugshot in the paper.

  25. Imagine that you are a school administrator. One of your teachers has been found guilty in a court of law of obstructing a police officer in front of his class of students. Do you:

    1. Have the guilty teacher try to circumvent our lawmaking process while attempting to put law enforcement officers under school board jurisdiction.


    2. Consider the impact that scofflaw teachers have on impressionable children, and review the procedures for disciplining and or terminating the contracts of lawbreaking teachers.

  26. 8:27

    1. A person talking about education in general with such poor spelling and grammar tends to undermine your point.

    2. There are thousands (literally) great kids attending Unified schools who are not "thugs".

    3. Shame on you.

  27. Why would you want your good kids have to interact with the thugs and gang bangers? Send your kids to a private school - no thugs, no gang bangers and no need for cops. And just think, at private schools you do not have to have separate entrance or exits at sporting events -

  28. Well if the school is a public building then I will have my picnic there at lunch on Mondays.

    If my children have to subjected to no rights while in public school then that is a great argument for homeschooling.

    I am very familiar with public schools. Fights breaking out and broken bones, need discipline. It is not the job of the police to bypass the schools in disciplining children. A child who is a fighter needs to be suspended or thrown out and that takes care of the problem. We need to have agreements written and agreed upon from students and parents about behavior in school. I know some schools require them.

    How we treat our children will effect how they think of our world and behave in the future. Read The teenage liberation handbook. Some interesting points about how we treat our students. They all shouldn't suffer because of a small few.

    I still live and stand by what Benjamin Franklin said so many decades ago. They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security. Think about it.

    Maybe you will think differently the first time you are hit with a police taser unjustified.

  29. Denis, The police didn't need to barge in and disrespect the teacher like big bafoons. What is the lesson in that? Would you gladly attend that school?

    They should have asked him into the hall and explained the situation, working out an agreed upon solution. These adults should have been able to come to some sort of agreement.

    Students have guns in their cars. That goes back to the gang problem in Racine. The police are hiding behind all this automated robotic police work. They have mobile policing stand alone units and automatic license readers and cameras throughout the city. They are hardly doing anything in person anymore. Now they want to act all bad ass in our schools.

    What does a thug look like? We have to be real careful about profiling thugs based on looks. (Rosy cheeked)has nothing to do with it. That they showed up to be educated and are attending class makes them a student. The school has policies to handle student behavior.

    The police need to do their police work after and out of the classroom.

  30. Anon 1:21, your characterization of this incident, ie police "barging and "disrespecting" and acting like "big bafoons", while interesting fiction, belies the facts of the case. In a court of law, it was the teacher guilty of obstructing an officer. Meanwhile, there were no charges against the police officer. In any case, if you don't like the law as it currently stands, the means to change it is through the legislative process, not through the teachers union and the school board. Perhaps a certain Horlick social studies teacher could learn how laws are made and pass that info on to his students. Maybe in the process he could learn the lesson himself. Wishful thinking on my part I realize.

  31. This policy complies with the law in every respect.

  32. My, my, my, as I sit here, I wonder how it is that everyone can make a judgement on this situation with only knowing the few facts that have been published in the Journal Times and the Racine Post.
    I work at Horlick high school, and before you all appoint Al Levie the "Freedom Fighter" for our students at this school, maybe you should know ALL of the facts of the case.
    The officers involved in this situation are the farthest from "Hot head power hungry cops". The fact is an officer in the school was confronted by a student, then was surrounded by several more of the "gang banger kids" as he (officer) was trying to get the students to their classes before the tardy bell rang. This officer was alone at this time, and when this officer called for another officer to assist, the student who intitiated the situation with the officer ran from the area. Another teacher saw this incident and told the officers the students name, and they then went to look up the class the student was in during the next class period, so they could speak with the student regarding his actions. (Enter Mr. Levie)
    As the officers approached Levie's door, it was locked, so the officer knocked on the door only to be ignored by Levie. The officers knocked again, this time Levie mocked them at the door, refusing to allow them in his classroom without a warrant. Levie did open the door, and as the student was walking out to speak with the officers, Levie physically stopped this student from leaving. The student wanted to go out and talk with the police!!!
    This was by no means the officers barging into the classroom to physically remove the student, but rather a case of a teacher trying to make a scene/statement to his class on how to ignore and disrespect police. This was Levie causing the scene, NOT the officers.
    It is VERY WELL known around Horlick High that Levie does not like the police or their presence in the school.
    In watching the officers each day at Horlick, they are not there to cause problems, but to help solve them. And to someone who asked earlier, YES Levie IS the one who initiated this policy proposal to Unified, (and probably wrote it).
    I am not alone in thinking that this is a ridiculous proposal, that is being submitted by a teacher who is angry because he was held accountable for his illegal actions on the day in question, and is therefore trying to make it harder than it already is for the officers who work in Unified to do their jobs. As unfortunate and sad as it is these days, Police presence is VERY needed in our schools (take for example, I attended the Park v. Horlick basketball game earlier this month at Park High, and counted no less than 20 officers roaming around inside and out of the school), Their presence and the job they do is apprciated by the majority of those that work in the schools.
    Oh a little side note about Levie the "freedom fighter" I overheard a female student the other day in the hallway of Horlick saying to another student at scheduling time "take Levie's class I did, and didn't do anything and he still gave me a B."
    So I guess I have rambled on here and am sure I will receive plenty of return remarks regarding this statement, but even though what is written here is not the "complete" story, it does provide a little more detail than what has been printed so far.

  33. Anon, 9:45,

    Sounds as if the new policy resolves all of the issues you've raised.

  34. ... except maybe the B's.

  35. Anonymous 9:45,

    Your description is very detailed. Shall we assume you were an eyewitness to events? If so, we know you're not the teacher and can assume you're not one of the students. By process of elimination, that most likely makes you one of the angry cops. That, or you didn't really see what you suggest you saw.

  36. ... I submit that few others would know the precise deployment of officers at a basketball game.

  37. On the odds that I'm right, here's a little advice to you, as a police officer, or to any other police officers who may be reading this: If you're going to be a police officer in a free democracy, recognize that not every difference of opinion is a direct affront to your authority. Sometimes, it's just a difference of opinion. Recognize that, and you'll be a better, more effective police officer. This situation should never have reached this level. It's only your insistence - against the reasoned advice of many others more level-headed - that caused this commotion in the first place. You should have just let it go. That's mature policing, not unbridled anger because your feelings got hurt. Grow up.

  38. The teachers can't keep these kids in check and neither can the principals. Give the cops a crack at it. RUSD is almost as bad as MPS.Maybe the cops can deal with the problems so the teachers and principals can teach the students who do want to learn. RUSD will never get it right. The kids have to much power.

  39. Ahhh as I figured, great replies to the comment I posted....I can tell you one thing, WAY too many people have WAY too much time on their hands, and WAY too few things to do with it.

  40. US Constitution sets forth the rights of the people of this Country, now the Racine Unified Constitution is adding a few more for the oh so respectful students of this city. (sarcastic tone)

  41. “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional
    rights at the schoolhouse gate.” - Justice Abe Fortas

  42. Pete, Thanks for deleting my post you LIBERAL. Liberals have ruined today's society, plain and simple. You should be ashamed of deleting my post. You must be a friend of Levies???? Very shameful behavior on your part. Why would ANYONE ask you to serve soup on Monday? Celebrity? Ya, right....lol.

  43. Maybe if RUSD put more effort into holding parents and students accountable and stop wasting our time with their stupid new "catch phrases of the day" (ie "The North Star")they could then make some real progress and start turning our district around. Oh wait, silly me...that would mean more parents would have to put forth some effort towards their child's education. Nevermind. That's asking for a modern day miracle in this town. So sad we ever decided to move here and can't wait to get out.

  44. Sounds like the District is trying to chase the police away. Just stop hiring them off-duty and call on duty officers when you need the police then. I wonder who drafted this policy lol maybe the part-time safety director which is a LT. of the Police Dept. lol...he might be making sure he keeps those big dollars coming in for doing nothing!

    Bad policy to have and one that is in the grey area of the law. For this policy to work the district/police department would have to agree to have the off-duty officers not work under their police powers/arrest powers and just act like school security. Therefore then they can't have their guns or badges out in view and can only take full police action if a felony was being committed. Dont see this policy working tho just look at MPPD when then pulled out of Case High when the school tried to tell them what they can and can't do!!! Leave the police to do there jobs as they are the professionals in this area....and Tell the Educators to worry about Education and dont try to be safety experts/professionals!!!

  45. I think RUSD should follow KC, Missouri and close half of the schools - larger classes, sell off unused schools, fire teachers and administration and eliminate the need for referendoms. By doing this a surplus of students will move to private schools where there is room and will reduce tuition costs. No more finacial problems!