Monday, October 18, 2021

S.C. rule limits police involvement in schools


The South Carolina State Board of Education approved new tentative rules on August 9, rules that restrict how police officers can get involved with school discipline, the Associated Press reports.

Less than a year ago, as we reported, a video surfaced of a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School being called into a classroom to discipline a 16-year-old girl who refused to stop using her cellphone. A few seconds later, he could be seen pulling her out of her desk and dragging her across the floor.

The police officer was fired just a few short days after the incident, but it sparked a national debate about the appropriate use of police officers when student offenses don’t rise to the level of criminal activity or pose a “direct and serious threat” to the safety of anyone.

“We’ve got to make something positive of what occurred,” the AP quoted Young Cooper, co-chairwoman of a group of educators, officers, and parents that recommended a commonsense approach to student discipline, as saying.

Under new conduct rules, available here, cellphone use is among the lowest of offenses and a punishment more like a detention or a demerit is recommended. Actions like assault and battery, bomb threats, and such, would rise to the level of criminal conduct, and the new rules also spell out the actions school administrators must take in those instances:

Criminal conduct is defined as those activities engaged in by student(s) which result in violence to oneself or another’s person or property or which pose a direct and serious threat to the safety of oneself or others in the school. These activities usually require administrative actions which result in the immediate removal of the student from the school, the intervention of the School Resource Officer or other law enforcement authorities, and/or action by the local school board. The provisions of this regulation apply not only to within-school activities, but also to student conduct on school bus transportation vehicles, and during other school-sponsored activities.

So if a criminal act is being committed or the safety of an individual is threatened, get the resource officer involved. Otherwise, handle it as a discipline problem.

Justice Dept faults Baltimore police for civil rights abuses

The new rule comes just a day before the US Department of Justice issued a report about damning civil rights violations committed by the police officers in Baltimore City over several decades.

Baltimore’s “pattern of making unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests arises from its longstanding reliance on ‘zero tolerance’ street enforcement, which encourages officers to make large numbers of stops, searches and arrests for minor, highly discretionary offenses,” the report said, as quoted by the New York Times. “These practices led to repeated violations of the constitutional and statutory rights, further eroding the community’s trust in the police.”

The Baltimore Sun wrote an entire series about the report, as reported on Maryland

  • Carrie Wells writes about the 163-page report that details abuses.
  • Jesse Coburn writes that the DOJ found that police unnecessarily used tasers.
  • The department is unable to police itself and root out problems.
  • Erin Cox reports that Gov Larry Hogan declined to comment on the substance of the report, which alleges systemic civil rights violations. She said the governor will be looking very closely at the report.

People around the city sharply condemned the discriminatory police practices the report identified. Most blamed police leadership for allowing those problems to take root, causing the editorial board for the Sun to write that the problems with the Baltimore City Police Department are deeper than what Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake characterized as a few bad apples.

DOJ included school police force in report

UPDATE August 14 (available online August 13): The Baltimore Sun editorial board writes that the Department of Justice was asked by the ACLU to include in its analysis the police force that serves the schools in Baltimore City, technically a separate unit from the Baltimore Police Department, but often having an overlapping beat. The editors wrote:

In the report released Wednesday, the agency found that residents’ mistrust of the city’s regular police extends to the school police force, and for the same reasons: A pattern and practice of racial discrimination that routinely violates students’ constitutional rights, an excessive use of force that brutalizes victims and their families, and a lack of accountability that allows complaints of officer misconduct to go unanswered for months if they ever get addressed at all. …

The report leaves no doubt that the school police, like their counterparts on the BPD, are in need of thorough reforms that address the systemic failures in the department’s recruitment and training programs as well as policing methods and strategies.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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