School resource officers should be used for ‘criminal’ behavior, say education board

This three image combo made from video taken by a Spring Valley High School student on Monday, Oct, 26, 2015, shows Senior Deputy Ben Fields trying to forcibly remove a student from her chair after she refused to leave her high school math class, in Columbia S.C. (AP Photo)

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – South Carolina education leaders want to clearly define how school resource officers interact with students. The move comes 10 months after a school resource officer was seen on video dumping a student out of her chair and tossing her across the floor.

“I don’t think that was handled the best it could’ve been,” said Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright. He says that doesn’t mean statewide changes are necessary.

State Board of Education Member Jane Harmon represents Spartanburg County, and does not agree.

“That just brought it to the forefront to see that changes needed to be made to see that mistakes like this would not happen again,” she said.

The proposed rules say an SRO should not get involved until student behavior becomes criminal and poses a direct or serious threat to safety.

“I think that would make a lot of consistency for both the educators and law enforcement officials to have the consistency of the language so that they both understand each other,” said Harmon.

Sheriff Wright says to keep in mind that every school is different.

“I think that’s a little bit of a knee-jerk, because there are so many cases where a school resource officer has averted problems and has helped family lives and done so much good. I don’t like the fact that they’re trying to put a template. One size don’t fit all,” he said.

He says Spartanburg County hires officers who have the experience to analyze situations before making a decision that can impact a student’s life beyond the campus.

District 2 and District 6 SROs were both recognized and honored Monday at their respective back to school district-wide staff meetings. (Photo courtesy: Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office)
District 2 and District 6 SROs were both recognized and honored Monday at their respective back to school district-wide staff meetings. (Photo courtesy: Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office)

“We try to do our best not to arrest. That’s not on accident. We try very hard. We do understand when you make an arrest sometimes that messes the kid’s future up,” he said.

He says SRO’s like the ones honored by Spartanburg School Districts 2 and 6 Monday do more than policing.

“They don’t just go and guard the school. They’re mentoring kids, they’re encouraging kids.”

The board also recommended new classifications for student misbehavior, and say SRO’s should also be positive role models and help train school personnel on handling crisis situations. The rules require another vote before heading to state lawmakers next year.

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