Ten months ago, a video was taken of a South Carolina deputy throwing a teenage student out of her desk. This incident brought about a national debate over what was expected of a classroom officer. Now state leaders have unofficially approved new regulations that limit the involvement of police officers with student control.
Seanna Adcox, writing for The Associated Press, reports that the South Carolina Board of Education unanimously endorsed new rankings for misbehavior by students. The proposal explained that officers should not interact with students unless the student's behaviors become criminal. Criminal behavior is defined as an act that poses a "direct and serious threat" to safety, such as drug sales, gun possession, and assault.
In October, a Richland County deputy was alerted to come to a classroom where a 16-year-old student would not turn her cell phone off and would not leave the classroom when directed to do so by an administrator and a teacher. When the video was posted online showing the white deputy arresting a black student, controversy erupted.
The new rules should provide transparency and uniformity to school districts and law enforcement agencies across the state, according to board member Traci Young Cooper.
"We've got to make something positive of what occurred," said Young Cooper, co-chairwoman of a group of educators, officers and parents tasked with recommending how to take a commonsense approach to student discipline.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department has settled with the US Department of Justice Program's Office for Civil Rights by way of a voluntary agreement to repair the school resource officer program and lessen school-based arrests.
The agreement requires the Sheriff's Department to work with an outside consultant to create new "policies and procedures to minimize school-based arrest, seizure, and use of force" and "ensure that SROs are not involved in the administration of school discipline or in routine classroom management," writes Deanna Pan, reporting for The Post and Courier.
Before the incident in Richland County, the Office for Civil Rights began a review of the Richland County Sheriff's Department school resource officer program because of several factors. The issues involved information on the county's juvenile population and rates of arrest and interviews with members of the community and youth advocates.
The department has been told that it will be responsible for yearly intensive training for all school officers. The curriculum will include: de-escalation and crisis intervention methods; prejudice-free policing; restorative justice capabilities; and classes in adolescent development and psychology.
A community group which will recommend improvements at regular intervals to the school resource officer program is also to be created. The department will conduct a thorough analysis of its school resource officer program so that districts, schools, and officers with the largest number of incongruities involving disability, race, color, or natural origin can be identified.
The regulations will be addressed again in October after more feedback is taken and a public hearing is held, says The Sun News' Jamie Self.
WIS-TV's Jack Kuenzie quotes Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, who said:
"We had resource officers involved on our task force and they said that, that oftentimes the role was very unclear. Surely they are there to build trust with students, and it's a two-way street, but the more they were there, they were asked to do things. Even substitute in classrooms, which went far beyond what their intent was."
She added that more training is needed for teachers also. It is particularly imperative that instructors understand how to de-escalate incidents before they erupt into serious situations.