SROs in the Capital City go back to school with new disability policy

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA)- School leaders are hoping a new program will cut down on the number of students with special needs that are being arrested. Richland County is the first school district in the country to start something like this.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has been training its officers for the past year for a new disability policy. It changes how school resource officers interact with students and is aimed at decreasing arrests and increasing awareness.

The training involves identifying the disability, being aware of the discipline and previous traumatic experiences. The director of advocacy with SC ABLE explained how this policy will benefit both students and law enforcement. “This policy is designed to support students with disabilities making sure interactions with law enforcement are more positive and they’re able to learn and given a chance to address behaviors before being cuffed and taken away,” said Robbie Kopp.

First Sergeant Shawn McDaniels with the sheriff’s department said this type of training helps officers better prepare before responding to a situation. “People are thrown into situations dealing with students especially SROs and just uninformed of what that child may be dealing with. We can’t ignore that some of these kids are coming to school with toxic trauma attached to them so we have to be able to ask the right questions.”

Before this policy school resource officers were only trained on dealing with students with Autism or that were hearing impaired. This policy will require the cooperation of both the school district and parents to better identify a student’s individual needs.