Lawsuit against CPS and CPD moves to federal court

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COLUMBIA - A lawsuit against Columbia Public Schools and Columbia Police Department is now going from state to federal court.

The parents of a 16-year-old student from Rock Bridge High School are suing the school and the police department because they went against the minor's Fourth Amendment and failed to follow CPS's policy guidelines when interviewing the student last May, according to the parents' attorney.

The student was called into the principal's office to talk to two police officers. The attorney says this was during finals week, causing the girl to miss some of her finals that week and having to make up for them later.

According Andrew Hirth, the parents attorney, the Columbia Police Department asked to talk to the student in regards to a recent sexual assault.

"Did she know about it? Was it at her house? Did she know the people involved?" said Hirth when explaining the types of questions CPD asked the girl. "She didn't, of course, know any of these people. Didn't know anything about it, and the police initially didn't believe her."

Hirth said that during the interview, there were no staff members from the school present. This is against a CPS policy, which states when a student is interviewed by officials "the school principal or designee will be present and the interview will be conducted in private."

The policy also states "The principal ordinarily will make reasonable efforts to notify the student's parents/guardians."

Hirth said the school didn't notify the student's parents about the interrogation, but girl's mother found out after the student called her to tell her.

"It's created more anxiety in her life and so we just think that this was a really improper thing for both the police and the Columbia Public Schools to do," Hirth said.

Hirth said under the Fourth Amendment there has to be probable cause to take the student and interrogate her.

"From what we understood there was no probable cause to take the student out of class and question her for anything," Hirth said. "And then, let alone, do that without a parent or a school administrator present."

CPS and CPD had no comment.