Texas officer loses job over student body slam. Should we rethink police in schools?

Should police officers be patrolling schools?

Do officers assigned to schools have adequate training in how to defuse hallway squabbles or deal with truculent teens without resorting to force?  Do they have the experience to recognize a serious threat versus teen bravado?

Many of the officers fired for overreacting are young themselves. As former DeKalb DA J. Tom Morgan, author of “Ignorance Is No Defense: A Teenager’s Guide to Georgia Law,” once told me, “Younger officers in particular can get into an escalating power play with teens.”

These questions are being asked more and more as cellphone videos capture police using extreme physical force to restrain students. (We discussed one such video here.)

The latest viral video is out of San Antonio, Texas, where a police officer slammed a 12-year-old girl to the ground. The video cost officer Joshua Kehm his job this week.

On Monday, the San Antonio Independent School District fired Kehm for his actions intervening in an aggressive argument between Janissa Valdez and another girl at Rhodes Middle School. A video shows Kehm slamming the sixth grader to the ground in front of a crowd of students watching the altercation between the girls.

In a statement on the termination, San Antonio Superintendent Pedro Martinez  said:

As educators, it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment for all of our students, We understand that situations can sometimes escalate to the point of requiring a physical response; however, in this situation we believe that the extent of the response was absolutely unwarranted. Additionally, the officer’s report was inconsistent with the video and it was also delayed, which is not in accordance with the general operating procedures of the police department. We want to be clear that we will not tolerate this behavior.

We know that this incident does not define our District police department, which is dedicated to serving and protecting our school community. We all want to make sure this kind of incident does not occur again, and we will seek to identify areas where improvement may be needed.”

APS is ending its use of Atlanta police this summer, opting to form and train its own security force. Atlanta’s decision reflects a national rethinking of whether police – with their law enforcement training to identity and stop criminals and criminal behaviors  – mesh with school systems in the business of building connections with students.

Atlanta school board chairman Courtney English said schools need “people who can build relationships without having that strict law enforcement component.” Speaking earlier this year to the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said, “Street cops in public schools do not necessarily make for the best, caring environment.”

According to the AJC:

District records show officers used some type of force — including pepper spray, stun guns and physical “takedowns” — in Atlanta schools 22 times last year.

The number of officers in schools has increased in the past decade. Cobb County put school resource officers in all of its middle schools last year. DeKalb has officers in some of its elementary schools, and since 2014 has added 10 officers to its force, which is now at 72. Gwinnett County’s budget for school resource officers has more than doubled in the past five years, from $2.2 million to about $4.85 million. Gwinnett, which was criticized a decade ago for not having enough officers, increased its force from 23 officers in 2006 to 41 in 2014. Clayton has about 30 officers.

School resource officer leaders defend their increased presence, saying an adult in a school hallway discourages potential violence. But confrontations can result when officers step in. During the last school year, metro Atlanta school districts investigated more than two dozen complaints of excessive force as officers were detaining or arresting a student or intruder.

APS’s decision has led to  criticism from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed who said, “Everyone knows APS is independent. They’re expressing their independence. But I think they’re going to make the children of the Atlanta school system far less safe.”

Here is the video that led to the officer’s firing in San Antonio this week:

Reader Comments 0

40 comments
Cere
Cere

That's all? I would think assault charges would be in order.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

As others have mentioned, what is missing from this video speaks volumes.  To wit, we don't see:

-  The "aggressive argument"

-  Teachers / Admins or the officer instructing this student to cease the aggressive behavior.

-  The student resisting the officer after he had to physically remove her from the altercation.


Here is the thing, you are required by law to obey the lawful commands of a police officer.  Ignore or disobey at your own risk.


That said, I agree that there are a certain percentage of police officer who are Class A SOBs and have no business in law enforcement.  Maybe this is one of those cases.  Who knows?

CSpinks
CSpinks

My forty-five years of experience in and around public schools in metro Augusta leads me to think that Mayor Reed is probably correct and that Superintendent Carstarphen as well as BOE Chair English are probably incorrect in their appreciations of the advisability of posting regular law enforcement in APS schools. Municipal police officers' and sheriffs' deputies' using community-based policing strategies can bring the frequently needed combination of persuasion, last-resort physical force and transparency to public schools which too-frequently need all three.

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

We must have officers...they need the right temperament....that being said parents MUST make their kids behave....las per nxt article behavior is out of hand and no one helps teachers....and if you send kids to the office you are a "bad" teacher.

Starik
Starik

Posting from twitter?  Why?  I pay to subscribe to the newspaper.  Why twitter?  Why facebook?  I assume people subscribe to the paper, at least in part, for the blogs.  I do.

Starik
Starik

Wouldn't it make sense to assign policemen where they're needed?  Some schools need police.  Some don't.  What's the crime level in the school?  Fights?

Starik
Starik

@concernedoldtimer I attended many schools, in the 50s and 60s, with no police. I now live in an area where they're not needed.

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik @concernedoldtimer Now there is a well-reasoned response.  There are schools, many of them, with no violence and no criminal activity, and no need for police.  If something does happen, dial 911.

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik Alpharetta. Milton. Cambridge. Some in Gwinnett, Forsyth and other counties. Lots of private schools.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Starik @JBBrown1968 You are full of crap! No Fights, drugs or anything else? BullSht! No crime at Milton or any of the others? BullSht! Keep talking genious! I guess there are no teenagers either! HAHAHAHAHAH

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik That's right. Yes, some drugs, mostly marijuana. Occasionally the local cops bring their dogs over to sniff the lockers. Lots of teenagers. Few thugs. That's "genius" by the way.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@JBBrown1968 @Starik

I gotta agree with Starik on this one.  There are many, many schools with no police officers.

That might be a good indicator when you are looking to move to a neighborhood.  Go ask a teacher at the local high school if they have an in-house police officer.  If yes, keep looking.

DerekGator
DerekGator

The officer should not be fired.  The parents need to teach their kids that if you don't obey the police, you will get hurt.  Parents need to do their job and stop blaming cops when they do their jobs.

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@DerekGator This one was NOT doing his job.  He used excessive force.  If he can't control a 12 year old girl without a body slam, he absolutely doesn't need to be a police officer.  That was disgraceful and an abuse of police power.  That is why he was FIRED by the police, along with lies he apparently told about what happened.

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@Starik @DawgVoiceofReason @DerekGator  No, it was not and you are a tool for the police.  If the training is to slam down a minor, female who is not out of control and is much smaller than the officer, the the training is broken and needs to be fixed.  Only a fool would not see that.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Carstarphen: “Street cops in public schools do not necessarily make for the best, caring environment.”

Carstarphen’s implied, somewhat subliminal argument: APS cops in public schools will necessarily make for the best, caring environment.

So, let’s suppose Carstarphen’s APS cops “mesh with [the district] in the business of building connections with students” meets with wild success.

Now, what will have been accomplished?

Why, connections built between cops and students, of course.  And a “caring environment” requiring the presence of a police force.

Carstarphen and English and, by extension, Atlanta school board members, would be wise to, in this case, heed Mayor Reed: “…I think they’re going to make the children of the Atlanta school system far less safe.”

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

No police are needed. Parental support of teachers and administrators who need to apply some discipline to their little angels would help a lot.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I believe we DO need police officers in the schools.  They should be chosen with a need for people skills in mind, however, and probably need some extra training in sped and general student issues.


My son, in middle school in Athens, witnessed a female SRO being knocked to the ground and stomped by a student she had stopped.  And she lost her job because the principal complained!


And if you wonder about having police in elementary schools, I saw an out of control 2nd grader take on an officer, the principal, assistant principal, and superintendent while in a rage in the principal's office.  He was cussing and tearing things off the wall, knocking things off the desk, and hitting the adults.

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

I saw an out of control kindergarten student bite a teacher, aide and several kids and had to be handcuffed took two adults....and a former student who threw a computer to a window is now convicted of murder.

class80olddog
class80olddog

So I never did see the video of what happened BEFORE this officer body-slammed the student.  Anyone have a link to that?

class80olddog
class80olddog

See the last blog about discipline.  Then look at Molly Bloom's article under the education header.  Why are teachers leaving - because of discipline. At least give APS kudos to even ask the question.  That is more than our wimpy State School Superintendent Woods would do.  He would not even ASK the question.  I am sure he was afraid of what he might hear.  Then you have the police officers who try to do something about discipline problems - the I-phones come out and the officer is fired - Why?  Because it looked bad.  Ever notice that the phone videos NEVER show what leads up to the "violence".  Police NEED to be in these schools (since they are sitting-duck zones) and they NEED Tasers.  Give the student three chances to comply with directives, then zap them.  Of course, the PARENT of the little stinker will raise Holy H*ll about it and probably sue. This is also why we need full-time video with audio in every classroom.  At least then you could have a counter-point to the student propaganda (Oh, I was sitting quietly in my desk and this mean police officer threw me on the ground!)

BonnieAkridge
BonnieAkridge

Shocking that something was actually done about a violent officer. 

DJNightrain
DJNightrain

@ajc we should rethink the whole police officer vetting system in general. Then we need to change the way parents train their kids.

amsmadwoman
amsmadwoman

@ajc Yes, if you set the expectation of horrible children then don't be shocked. Expect better you get better. Foster parental involvment

700proof
700proof

@ajc Some schools need officers. We should be rethinking training and proper anger management techniques.

BobGriggs
BobGriggs

@ajc No, we should make the parents of unruly children teach a class for a week. Let them learn what a hoodlum their kid is.

bu22
bu22

APS does everything so well.  Obviously they would do much better with their own police force than an agency that is in the business of policing (satire in case you can't figure out). Its not the 1950s.  Its not even the 80s anymore.  They need police.   Teachers aren't trained to deal with this and shouldn't have to.  About once a year you hear of a teacher or principal who gets hit and killed or seriously injured intervening to break up a fight.

Shannon Mathers Deisen
Shannon Mathers Deisen

Obviously. From WaPo: "Civil rights advocates say that this is the kind of thinking that saddles children, and particularly black and Hispanic children, with criminal records for nothing more than typical teenage behavior. “Too many of our schools are arresting and criminalizing children as young as 5,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group."

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Typical teenaged behavior is chewing gum in class. It is holding hands in the hall.  These activities don't result in body slamming.