CCSD police violate student's Fifth Amendment rights with illegal search, say parents

Student's requests to call his parents or a lawyer
were denied during three-hour detention

Part 2

As detailed in Part 1 of this report, parents of a high-school honor student — a senior and a member of the Army National Guard — have accused CCSD police and administrators of illegally searching and detaining their son.

While Nevada law and CCSD-PD general orders require that school police “shall” contact parents “without undue delay” and must release a student to his parents, CCSD police did neither.

Instead, according to district records, they used high-school Principal Kimberly Bauman as their agent in an official police investigation that detained the Northwest Career and Technical Academy student for over three hours …. without ever informing his parents.

Because NWCTA Principal Bauman acted as the police officers’ agent, the officers apparently hoped they were out from under Clark County School District Police Department General Order 450, Search and Seizure, which states school police officers are “to work within the framework of the U.S. Constitution when conducting searches and seizures.”

That rule, department officials acknowledge, requires probable cause. However, under CCSD policy, administrators are not obligated to contact a student’s parents so long as a youth’s “person” is not searched.

School district policy also says school administrators may detain and search students if the administrator has “reasonable suspicion” the student is “hiding evidence of a wrongdoing.”

“Reasonable suspicion” is a looser legal standard than probable cause. And that is the reason, says CCSD Police Capt. Ken Young, that CCSD police used Bauman to conduct the search.

But was there, in fact, even reasonable suspicion?

According to the student, while searching his backpack, Bauman removed three papers from his binders and handed them to the two CCSD officers present.

The officers, Daniel Burgess and Deric A. Hall, then began questioning the student — despite multiple requests to call a lawyer and his parents.

According to General Order 420, Handling Juveniles, when CCSD police conduct an interrogation, “the questioning of a juvenile who is suspected of a status or criminal offense,” the child is “entitled to be accompanied by an attorney upon request” and officers must administer the Miranda warning prior.

In his late-December interview, Young did not deny that the student asked for an attorney or that he was never administered the Miranda warning.

“What is the Viper Squad?” asked Burgess as he held up one of student’s seized homework pages.

Viper Squad, explained the student, was the name chosen by his alternative-fuels class workgroup for their human-powered vehicle team. The school project required students to form a team to first design, then build, a human powered vehicle, with which they were to compete against other teams. 

The document’s purpose could have easily been substantiated, says the family.

And the student notes that Burgess “could have gone to either one of my shop [or] technology teachers and said, ‘What is this?’”

“They would have answered,” he continued, “and this could have all been done with.”

Instead, school police continued to hold the student in a locked room with the officers for over two more hours.

Ten to 15 minutes after Burgess questioned him regarding the Viper Squad sheets and other papers, the young man recalls, Bauman left the room, locking the door behind her.

Asked how he knew the door was locked, he explains that, “Every time someone wanted in, they would knock on the door, and Officer Hall — he’s the one that stayed with me all of the time — went and opened the door.”

Then, says the student, officers began questioning him about Steven Fernandes, a former NWCTA student.

According to an October Las Vegas Review-Journal report, Fernandes had been the subject of court papers filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Dickinson and Patrick Walsh. The documents said FBI agents with the Southern Nevada Joint Terrorism Task force had found bomb-making materials and devices in the bedroom of Fernandes, a recent Northwest Career-Tech graduate. Describing himself as the commanding officer of the “327th Nevada Militia,” an urban survivalist unit with six or seven members, Fernandes had allegedly spoken about staging mass casualty attacks.

At last report, Fernandes remained in federal custody. Nevertheless, said Hall, the FBI believed his associates might be plotting an attack on the school.

“I told [the officer] I knew who [Fernandes] was, because he was a senior in my program area last year,” the student says he told the officers. “That’s as far as I know this Steven Fernandes.”

Officer Hall, however, stated — in a sworn declaration describing the arrest of ex-student Jake Benton Howell — that the National Guard student had said “he was an acquaintance of Steven Fernandez [sic] but has not regularly associated with him.”

According to Hall’s statement, Bauman had earlier also implicated Jake Howell as a “current student known to associate” with Fernandes, and then later, noticing Howell on campus, had pointed him out to school police.

Howell, who told CCSD police he’d come to campus to visit two favorite teachers, was later arrested for having an unloaded rifle and other weapons in his car, which was parked in the school parking lot. He told police that he’d “brought the rifle with him to Las Vegas to show his friends,” and that he’d “loaded his vehicle with various survival gear items to be prepared for the ‘society collapse’ that was rumored to occur on Dec. 21, 2012,” the date of the so-called Mayan Apocalypse.

The father, referring to his own training as a former police detective, says he’s appalled by what he has seen.

“The police,” explains the father, “should have realized that we have a Fifth Amendment issue here — we need to contact the parents.

“The school police are police,” he continued. “They’re POST certified. So, I have questions about a school police officer not understanding court decisions pertaining to juveniles in custody for questioning. They should understand it better than me.”

Officers then continued questioning him, says the student, asking if he knew anything about the kid who brought a gun to school.

“I didn’t know someone brought a firearm to school,” explained the student, who asked the officer, “Somebody brought a gun to school?” Officers asked no other questions about the gun, he says.

For over two more hours, after being searched and questioned by police, the student was detained in the room with Hall, without any parental contact.

About 1:15 pm — when the teen attempted to call his mother — Officer Hall confiscated his mobile phone. 

“I asked to call my mom,” recalls the student. “He said, ‘no, let me call me my supervisor.’” Then, says the student, Hall took his phone, which was sitting on the table, and walked to the doorway “and called whoever he called.” After making the phone call, says the student, Hall denied his request and kept his phone, placing it in his cargo pocket.

In his interview, Young tells Nevada Journal the student “was never denied access to his parents.”

Even when the mom arrived at the office she was not immediately taken to her son, she says.

Approaching a crowd of police, school administrators and FBI agents, the mother told the group she was there to get her son. She was then led into a room followed by the school principal, a Metro police officer and an FBI agent.

“I was not allowed to see my son at that time,” the mother told Nevada Journal.

Instead, she says, Bauman informed her that her son had been suspended because he told the principal in front of another student that she was “[F’d] up” and had “[f’d] up the school.”

Bauman then, says the mom, stormed out of the room.

Now as she was crying hysterically, says the mother, a Metro sergeant and FBI agent got her tissue and a bottle of water.

After she had “calmed down just a little,” the mother says, “they asked me for permission to talk to [my son].”

She called her husband, who spoke with the Metro officer.

“I was still crying and asked [my husband] to come down,” the mother relates. “I told him there were police and FBI and the principal had told me they were holding [our son] and [she] was [suspending him].”

“I was scared and didn’t know what to do,” she explained.

“Imagine”, says the father to Nevada Journal, “you can’t find your son. He didn’t show up after school. He’s not returning your texts or calls.  Then, you arrive to the school and see a lot of officers from multiple police agencies and FBI agents grouping around the office. And, still they won’t let you see your son.” 

That, says the father, is what happened to his wife, who now makes her son pull over every day and text her on his way home from school just so she can breathe, knowing he made it away safely.

Arrangements, said the family, were made with Metro for parents to bring their son in later for questioning.

Not allowed in the room where school police were detaining her son, the mother says she overheard the Metro sergeant state twice, "No, his mother is here. You need to let him go."

Escorted to the main front desk, the mother says her son was finally brought to her from one of the other offices.

“This was the first time I was allowed to see or speak to my son. I was happy to see him,” she says.

As mother and son walked away, Bauman stopped them, handing the mother suspension papers for her signature. Bauman also gave the mother a copy of the consent-to-search, noting the student had refused to sign it.

The family questions Bauman’s statement and their son’s suspension entirely.

The student was temporarily removed from school, according to the suspension notice, for “Insubordination/Disrespect, Profanity, Campus Disturbance.”

The written summary in the student’s discipline file, however, provided to parents on Jan. 9, shows the student made the alleged comments as part of a conversation with officers, while he was detained in Bauman’s office — and not in front of another student or out on campus as indicated by Bauman.

Furthermore, says the family, the school can’t create an abusive situation where a stressed student uses profanity to a police officer, and then uses that as “the reason for a suspension.”

“You look at the reason why he was [suspended],” explains the father, “that developed during the time he was in custody. And the time he was being questioned was when they developed a reason to [suspend] him. They had no reason to do anything to him prior to that.

“In my opinion,” he continues, “they created that reason by continuing to hold somebody, not telling him what was going on, and not allowing him to contact parents or representation.”

At the subsequent Jan. 9 reinstatement conference, says the family, NWCTA Dean Karen Galindo informed them their son was being referred to the district’s Department of Student Threat Evaluation and Crisis Response for evaluation as a possible school shooter.

Galindo, says the family, was very “non-committal” about what happened to their son, when the family tried to get into the details. However, they say, “She was very definite that she was going to call the assessment center and give them [our son’s] name.”

School district officials tell Nevada Journal Bauman cannot comment on the situation, because it involves a student. Multiple requests to speak generally with Bauman went unanswered.

Requests to school officials regarding the frequency in which school administrators are used in police investigations were shuffled off to the CCSD police and legal departments. Neither department has responded.

Likewise, multiple requests to school-district officials inquiring about CCSD’s lack of policy mandating parental notification have received no response.

“I don’t think we ever will [see] the truth out of all of this,” said the father recently.

CCSD police officials, said the father, didn’t think his son’s future was important enough to set the matter straight. Instead, he said, their primary goal was to cover up their incompetence.

“Their application of the law,” he tells Nevada Journal, “is atrocious, here.”

“CCSD police are a classified police organization,” the father explains. “They are POST certified by the State of Nevada training organization,” he continued. “Thus, they are supposed to apply the law.

“We run into a problem when we see things like what happened to my son. They were not applying the law.” 

He then referred to a legislative bill-draft request, from Assemblyman Richard Carrilo, that would expand the jurisdiction and authority of school police.

“I will definitely be happy to go to Carson City, or wherever I have to go,” says the father, “to discuss the fact that I don’t think these people are competent to have that kind of police authority.”

Karen Gray is a reporter/researcher with Nevada Journal. For more in-depth reporting visit http://nevadajournal.com and http://npri.org.

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