Friday, June 2, 2017

South Carolina Regulations Limit School Resource Officers’ Role - Education Law Prof Blog

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South Carolina Regulations Limit School Resource Officers’ Role

By Josh Gupta-Kagan

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South Carolina is making progress in limiting its school-to-prison pipeline, thanks to new state Department of Education regulations growing out of a school incident which went viral nearly two years ago.
The background:  in October 2015, a teenager at a Columbia, SC high school refused repeated demands to put away her cell phone. Both the cell phone and the teen were quiet, and not interfering with any other student.  When she refused, her teacher involved her assistant principal.  When she refused his demands to put away the phone, he involved the school resource officer (SRO).  And when she refused his demands, he arrested her for the crime of “disturbing schools” and was caught on video pulling the child out of her chair and, as the local sheriff later put it, “throwing [] the student across the floor,” making this another in a now-long list of questionable cases of SRO actions in school. To top it off, he arrested and charged a second student with disturbing schools for encouraging her classmates to record the incident (that is, the recordings which brought this incident to the public’s eye) and objecting to the officer’s treatment of the teenager with the cell phone.
Beyond the excessive force, advocates focused on two legal elements of this incident – the broad law which rendered petty non-violent teenage misbehavior criminal, and the SRO’s involvement in what ought to have been a purely school disciplinary, not law enforcement, matter.  Progress on the first point is stalled at least until 2018 – a bill to dramatically narrow South Carolina’s disturbing schools statute passed the South Carolina Senate, but not the House, before the General Assembly recessed for the year.
But there is progress on the second point – the South Carolina Department of Education just finalized regulations which impose some real limits on when schools can involve SROs in school discipline matters. (The regulations are available in the S.C. Register, published here. Open the link for the May 26, 2017 edition, and see pages 57-65. The Education Law Prof Blog:

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