Schools adding lessons on interacting with law enforcement
- Texas has become the latest state to begin implementing a curriculum that teaches students how to interact with police officers during a traffic stop. The instructional materials include a 16-minute video demonstrating both positive and negative reactions to getting pulled over, according to the Texas Tribune.
- The Community Safety Education Act, passed last year, is meant to keep such encounters with law enforcement from escalating into an arrest, or even a shooting. The lessons cover the duties of officers, citizen rights, proper behavior during an interaction, and how to file a complaint or make a compliment.
- The curriculum is now a graduation requirement, but school districts can choose in which subject areas to include the lessons, the article says. The law also requires police officers to complete similar lessons on interactions with civilians.
After incidents in which young men of color were killed after being stopped by police, some schools, particularly those in minority communities, began to create their own lessons for students on how to be respectful of police officers, but to also assert their rights. And last school year, Illinois schools also began adding lessons on how to behave during traffic stops to driver’s education classes.
But the American Civil Liberties Union stresses that many students are already coming into contact with law enforcement at school, and some observers argue that teaching students to be careful with how they act around police places these officers in a negative light. Discussions in recent months about whether adding more school resource officers (SROs) can prevent school shootings have also been countered by those who claim integrating police into schools blurs the lines between them and law enforcement, leads to the criminalization of minor infractions and accelerates the school-to-prison pipeline.
"Police presence in schools has increased over time and contributes to the criminalization of young people, particularly young black people and brown people," Hashim Jabar, of Dayton, Ohio-based Racial Justice Now, said during one of the Federal Commission on School Safety’s public meetings in June.
Administrators who work in schools with SROs can be mindful of how these professionals can improve school climate and contribute in ways that will benefit students in the community. In an article for the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Dispatch” newsletter, John Rosiak, the founder and principal Prevention Partnerships, stressed that it’s important for SROs to have clearly defined roles in schools that don’t include involvement with school discipline. He also suggested involving school staff and community members’ involvement in the process of interviewing and selecting SROs to find the best fits for a school.
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