Community safety bill goal: Educate students on interactions with police

George Juarez, Editor-In-Chief

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Red and blue lights flash in the rearview mirror. Some are scared to pay a fine for something they don’t know they
committed. Others, cops included, are afraid they will be shot.

The Texas Senate unanimously passed Texas Senate Bill 30 on March 2018 which will require high school students and police officers to be taught how law enforcement and civilians should interact. This bill is also known as The Community Safety Education Act.

Both state senators Royce West, D-Dallas, who vice-chairs the higher education committee, and John Whitmire, D-Houston, who chairs the criminal justice committee, were the authors of this bill. Under the bill, Conroe Independent School District and the CISD Police Department have worked together to establish instructions on interacting with law enforcement for students in grades 9-12 and a civilian interaction training program for peace officers.

Deadly encounter between law enforcement and civilian comes after the high-profile case of Sandra Bland, a 28-year- old woman arrested in Waller County in 2015 after a traffic stop whose videotaped argument with an officer became national news after she was found hanged to death in her jail cell three days after the incident.

This new requirement applies to any student who enters grade 9 in the 2018- 2019 school year and thereafter.

“This bill is an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities or high-tension encounters between law enforcement and citizens,” West said as he laid out his bill at a Criminal Justice Committee hearing.

Whitmire said that learning how to communicate with law enforcement combined with increased training of law enforcement will lead to improved relations and interactions between the public and law enforcement.

“No legislation can address every instance of interaction between law enforcement and the public,” he said. “However, increased education of students and increased training of law enforcement will certainly help prevent some instances.”

Teenagers who want to get a driver’s license would receive similar instructions about law enforcement interaction. These instructions will be placed in the driver training manual published by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“We hope that this legislation will become a national model,” West said in his Fall 2017 newsletter. “If it saves but one life, all the energy poured into SB30 will be well worth it.”

There are some groups who oppose this bill such as the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter. Ashton Woods, a spokesman of the chapter, called the bill an “insult.”

“It’s saying to a little black child, ‘When the police stop you, and they will, this is how we want you to act, even though we know you’re still going to get killed,'” Woods said in an interview with the Texas Observer. “It’s an insult. It just seems to me that they are trying to satisfy the demands and needs of the police unions.”

According to the Texas Education Agency, the State Board of Education adopted an amendment to Title 19 of the Texas Administrative Code in Section 74.5, Academic Achievement Record (Transcript), to require clear indication on the academic achievement record of completion by a student of the required instruction on proper interaction with peace officers.

SBOE member Barbara Cargill, R-District 8, said the new bill is beneficial.

“It is our hope that when students are trained on how to interact with officers, they will remember what they learned in future situations that may come up like a routine traffic stop,” Cargill said. “The training was actually a good reminder for me, so even adults can benefit from it.”

For more information, contact the Curriculum Standards and Student Support Division by email at [email protected] or by phone at 512-463-9581.

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