“You have the right to remain silent” are seven words that most of us never hope we have to hear, and of course, most of us never will hear them, except maybe in the latest episode of Law and Order. Nevertheless, with the Supreme Court of Kentucky poised to rule on whether or not public school administrators are required to inform you of your Miranda Rights when questioned in a school context for a criminal act, we feel it important to waive our right to silence on this critical issue.
The Miranda Warning was first established in 1966 by the United States Supreme Court in overturning the conviction of a man who was not aware of his right to silence in the face of police interrogation. We see no reason why these same rights, accorded to every American under the 5th Amendment’s right to protection from self incrimination, should stop at the classroom door or the schoolyard parking lot.
Further, we see no reason why students should not be accorded the same rights as the rest of the population in criminal proceedings or interrogations – students should not be discriminated against on the basis of getting an education, and a school should not operate in the same manner that kangaroo courts operate in tinpot dictatorships.
We are endowed by nature with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty is the key right at stake in this ruling, and the Supreme Court of Kentucky should make a decision that reflects the right of every Kentucky student to liberty from self-incrimination in an interrogation and in a court of law.
Dissenters might argue that this is a cumbersome requirement, that it will lead to those who are guilty of crimes to get off the hook scott free – so be it. The same arguments were leveled at the original Miranda ruling in 1966 and they’re as wrong today as they were half a century ago.
The right of individuals to be secure from self-incrimination and the right of individuals to be made aware of their rights outweigh any potential costs because we believe, in these United States, that nothing, no person, no court or no government can abridge the rights of the individual and that it is better that a guilty person go free than a free person pay for a crime he or she did not commit.
The Supreme Court of?Kentucky can make the right decision when it renders its ruling on this most critical of issues by requiring students to be informed of their Miranda Rights in an interrogation. Or, it can, like so many other institutions in our modern life, continue down the path toward abrogation of our natural rights.
One thing we should bear in mind, however, is that we the people of the Commonwealth have the right to elect our Supreme Court justices – this decision, ultimately, is still up to we the people.
The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.