Development of a Training Program Curriculum for School Resource Officers

H.4516 requires the Criminal Justice Academy to develop and implement a training program curriculum for school resource officers by January 1, 2017. This bill also requires the Department of Education to require conflict intervention and resolution training for middle and high school teachers and administrators, and instructs the DoE to develop training guidelines and optional materials for the school districts, the latter to be used at the discretion of the school districts.

This bill also instructs schools not to rigorously apply zero-tolerance policies to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors, and lays out guidelines for school boards’ zero-tolerance policies and penalties. School boards are instructed to work with law enforcement to develop reporting guidelines and procedures for serious threats. Public schools and school districts are instructed to maintain a record of each student suspension, expulsion, and referral to the Department of Juvenile Justice and to include the age, race, and grade level of each one. This information would be reported annually to the Department of Education, which in turn would keep a record of each student suspension, expulsion, and referral in the state. The DoE would report this information to the General Assembly annually. The reports and records would be public records subject to FOIA, with the exception of names and personal information other than age, race, and grade level.

Finally, this bill clarifies the role of a school resource officer, defines disturbing or disrupting behavior for non-students, and increases the penalties for such offenses.

There are a number of concerns in this bill.

In the first place, there is no indication of whether the new training program to be developed by the Criminal Justice Academy or the conflict intervention and resolution training materials to be developed by the Department of Education will require additional money and where that money will come from.

It is a surprisingly wise move to allow school districts to select their own training resources for conflict intervention and resolution. That said, if school districts are not required to utilize the training materials developed by the DoE, it makes no sense to spend time and taxpayer resources to develop them. The school districts are being allowed some discretion here, so let them take full responsibility for it.

Finally, the bill needs a provision stating that the student records to be kept by the districts and reported to the state may not include student names or personal information. Without that prevention, the assurance that personal student information is exempt from FOIA requests is inadequate.

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