RVA group slams 'overly aggressive school policing'

Published: Jan. 8, 2016 at 4:31 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2016 at 4:31 AM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Legal Aid Justice Center claims your children may be falling prey to overly aggressive school policing, but at least one law enforcement group is pushing back.

A South Carolina officer confrontation with a student went viral, and right here at home, an advocate for students with special needs was carted off to jail in Chesterfield. We've seen multiple examples that sparked questions about the role of police in schools.

"We're seeing too many kids funneled from our classrooms to our courtrooms for very minor offenses often times," said Jason Langberg who is an attorney with the Just Children program at the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Langberg released an extensive report that aims to address the fact that Virginia tops the nation when it comes to referring students to police.

"And the school culture quite frankly is damaged by overly aggressive school policing,"  said Langberg.

Some local police groups aren't taking kindly to the seven recommendations in the report that seem to tackle law enforcement.

"It's a three legged stool," said Dana Schrad with Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. "You have parents, you have schools, and you have law enforcement."

Schrad says she is reviewing the recommendations that call for things like comprehensive on-going training for Student Resource Officers, requires a Memorandum of Understanding between school divisions and law enforcement. and also eliminates school based disorderly conduct charges against students.

"And it has to all be done together," said Schrad. "Law Enforcement officers can't carry the whole load. Police officers don't want to arrest kids for matters that should be handled by the schools, but when they are put in that situation...and the situation escalates...then they have to think about the safety of not only the student, but the other students around them."

Schrad feels any final recommendations for tackling the aforementioned concerns should include more officer input.

"Because many of them have been turned into school disciplinary officers rather than being used in their proper role as school resource officers," said Schrad.

So what next? Lawmakers come back to Richmond next Wednesday for the General Assembly. The Legal Aid Justice Center hopes to continue the conversation with lawmakers.

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