The Scotland County Board of Education will continue to support the discretion of law enforcement officials regarding the use of Tasers and other means of student control on school campuses, school officials said.
With respect to a school resource officer’s effective threat of Taser use on a Scotland High School student, board members feel that the incident proceeded as well as it could have under the circumstances.
Two 16-year-old female students engaged in a fight in the school cafeteria on Tuesday, and attempts by school staff to separate the two proved ineffective, officials said.
Shawn Chavis, a school resource officer, arrived in time to witness one of the students pull a staff member across the cafeteria in an attempt to reach the other student. Chavis told her to stop, or she would be Tased, at which point she ended her pursuit of the other student.
Chavis’ actions were in line with the standard procedure of law enforcement officers operating both on and off of school campuses, according to Charles Brown, chairman of the Scotland County Board of Education.
“It’s pretty much the procedure in terms of the police and school resource officers,” said Brown. “Of course they have guidelines that they operate under in their capacity as school resource officers, and the school system supports their decision-making in the circumstances they find themselves in.”
School board Vice-Chairman Terence Williams also spoke in support of law enforcement’s right to decide when the use of force might be necessary.
“If they don’t use these types of things when necessary, what might that lead to?” Williams asked.
Williams said the use of a Taser or other means may be justified in cases where doing so would ensure the safety of the entire student body.
“One versus the safety of hundreds - we really have to consider the difference,” said Williams. “No one wants their child on the receiving end of this type of force, but at the same time no one that sends their child to school wants their safety compromised in any regard at any given moment.”
Williams also voiced his confidence in the judgment of school security officers.
“If you are defiant against orders from police authority, they are trained to handle that accordingly,” he said. “In this case, the Taser was not used because the people involved heeded the warning, so that defused the situation, and we are grateful for that. If you have those who are going to be continually defiant, certainly the law enforcement will make the judgment call based upon their expertise and training.”
Brown feels that Chavis gave the student fair warning of his ability and intent to use a Taser should she not desist in her behavior.
“That was just giving the student information because if the situation was such that the student wouldn’t listen to reason, that was his next option,” Brown added. “Evidently the student understood that she needed to get herself under control.”
According to school board attorney Nick Sojka, school resource officers are not directly employed by the school system, and are not subject to any special liabilities or restrictions by virtue of their work in the schools.
“The professional law enforcement officers who are present there as school resource officers ultimately report to their law enforcement agency,” said Sojka. “They’re there in the school but it’s just like they’re a cop on the beat and they happen to be assigned to that beat. Of course school administrators talk to them and work with them, and of course there’s going to be communication and coordination, but ultimately they report to their respective law enforcement agencies.”
The incident proceeded as well as could be expected, and merits no discussion of policy at this time, according to Brown.
“I don’t think the school board is even going to consider this or talk about what we can do to change it – I think it’s in place in a reasonable way and I think we’re going to support it as is,” he said.