Associations Respond to School Officer’s Treatment of Student

A viral video of a 16-year-old girl manhandled in a classroom opened a discussion on special training for officers who work in schools.

Video of a North Carolina high school student being physically removed from a classroom last week went viral and became a flashpoint for public discussions about race and school policing. It’s also sparked responses from associations about the role of school safety officers and how to manage such incidents in the future.

The incident occurred October 26 at a school near Columbia, South Carolina, as a 16-year-old girl who had refused to stop using her phone in class was grabbed and dragged from her seat by a Richland County Sheriff’s deputy. The deputy was fired two days later, but not before controversy erupted about the appropriateness of the officer’s actions.

It is past time that all schools have policies and practices to de-escalate conflicts and create safe school climates.

More specifically, the incident has drawn attention to the distinctions between law enforcement inside and outside the classroom, particularly as more officers work inside schools. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers increased 40 percent between 1997 and 2007, Yahoo Health reported. The National Association of School Resource Officers recommends 40 hours of training for officers working in schools, though it is not compulsory. NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady told the New York Times that the association has no arrangement with South Carolina law enforcement agencies for officers to attend its training programs.

The classroom setting for the incident may have exacerbated the issue, Canady suggested, and recommended that a better approach would have been to clear the classroom.

“I would ask the school administrators to please excuse the other students,” he told the Times. “Simply ask the student, ‘What’s wrong, what’s going on, how can I help you?’ That’s a difference maker. Many times they just need somebody to listen to.”

Many viewers of the video questioned whether race was a factor: The girl is black and the former deputy is white, and studies show that black students often receive disproportionate punishment in public schools. National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia highlighted that point in comments last week, saying in a statement that “it is past time that all schools have policies and practices to de-escalate conflicts and create safe school climates. We know it has been done with success, and we look to those examples where students are treated with humanity, dignity, and respect.”

(YouTube screenshot)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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