When a South Carolina deputy slammed a disruptive student on the floor and tossed her several feet, people started talking all across the nation. An incident that started with a cell phone and refusal to cooperate quickly resulted in forceful action and a job lost.
So here in the Tennessee Valley, what should parents expect if this happens in their child’s classroom?
We spoke with the National Association of School Resource Officers, NASRO, to have a better understanding. This non-profit organization provides an intensive 40-hour training to all Huntsville School Resource Officers, or SRO’s, and the surrounding cities and counties.
“We want SRO’s to stay back from the school discipline,” explains NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady. “We step in when it becomes a criminal matter.”
For other matters, school administrators and teachers are equipped to handle situations that pertain to classroom defiance. Canady says the key to keeping campuses safe starts with communication, which is only possible though trust.
“If you have positive relationships with students,” said Canady, “You have a lot better opportunity to deescalate a situation. “
The City of Huntsville has had an established SRO program since 1995. Currently the city is home to 19 SRO’s and one supervisor. Officers are required to serve for a minimum of two years before applying to be a school officer and once they apply, they go through rigorous training and qualifications to be considered for the position.
Lt. Stacy Bates is the spokesperson for the Huntsville Police Department, and a former SRO. He said Huntsville SRO’s work non-stop communicating with staff and students to bridge the gap between law enforcement and youth. However, they only take action when a criminal matter is at hand.
“Our officers are strictly there for when a law is broken,” said Lt. Bates. “That’s when we step in and deal with it.”
And when that time comes, officers are trained on how to make an arrest, including a resistant student.
“You should have the school administration to excuse the other students from the classroom,” explains Canady. “This takes away the audience. Sometimes eliminating the problem and they will even walk out with you.”
But what happens when a student continues to be resistant?
“We can only use the minimum amount of force to overcome the resistance that we have,” said Lt. Bates. “And that’s what all of our officers know, and that’s the last resort. The last resort is an arrest and we try to do anything else before that.”
Calling to question, was a defiant student a reason to use an SRO. Here in Huntsville, it’s not. Officers are always on hand to give guidance and offer assistance, but administration takes the lead on incidents that aren’t criminal.
Lt. Bates notes that all school districts and states have their own agreements between SRO’s and the schools.
He also encourages parents to get to know their students SRO and build a trusting relationship with them.