SB1070 Update: No training for officers in schools

by David Safier

Question: How should police officers implement SB1070 in schools?

Answer: It's pretty much up to them.

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is developing training for the state's 16,000 law enforcement officers to prepare them for July 29, when the law goes into effect. Executive Director Lyle Mann said the training will not cover the specifics of handling students and the role of school resource officers.

"We decided that unique situations such as SRO is too problematic and the issues too specific (to be) included in a statewide training program," Mann said in an e-mail.

The state Department of Education has also not provided any guidelines. "It's the school's decision on how they handle their school resource officers," said spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico.

Let me spotlight 2 amazing phrases in Lyle Mann's statement. Officers in schools are in "unique situations," so how they should handle SB1070-related situations is "too problematic" to give them any training.

Translation: It's too complicated to tell you how to handle your job, so we're not going to give you any guidance or training.

For those of you who haven't taught high school, here's the situation in a nutshell.

You have a village composed of 1,500 to 3,000 teens with adult employees in charge of their education and supervision. Like any village, some of its members misbehave, and some of the misbehavior is criminal or borders on the criminal — fights, thefts, drug sales and use, etc.

Often, one of the employees of the village is an actual police officer. When that's not the case, officers are called in to deal with situations beyond the scope of the administration.

So how do officers bound by SB1070 handle a situation where there is a "reasonable suspicion" one of the students they are dealing with is undocumented? And remember, an officer will often "stop" or "detain" students who are witnesses or suspects in a crime but are innocent of any wrongdoing. Does SB1070 obligate officers to ask "suspicious" students for papers, creating a general fear of police officers in Hispanic students, both documented and undocumented?

And if a student who is asked for papers doesn't have a driver's license but is here legally, does the officer detain that student until a parent or guardian can come to school or to a police station to provide documentation? And if the parent or guardian says, "His birth certificate is with his grandmother in LA"? Then what?

Nobody knows what the officer should do, not the AZ Police Officer Standards and Training Board, not the Department of Education, both of whom have said to schools and officers, "Your guess is as good as mine."

It's just another indication that last-in-per-student-funding Arizona's official policy is to consider its children unworthy of serious consideration. And if the children are Hispanic, even the most innocent among them are helpless victims of bad legislation. Top police and education officials shrug their shoulders and say, "Sorry, there's nothing we can do."

(h/t to Kristi Eaton at Campus Progress for the link.)

Comments are closed.