Local students will soon be required to learn how to work with law enforcement officers.
Effective next September, Texas Senate Bill 30 will establish curriculum regarding police interaction for teens and officers. Texas public high schools, driver’s education classes and police officer trainings will implement the new curriculum designed to establish the roles and duties of police officers, policy and procedure for questioning and detention by police, as well as appropriate behavior for citizens and officers.
The bill was proposed following several fatal police encounters and the subsequent fatal shooting of five Dallas officers in July of last year. The Texas Department of Public Safety has added a section on suggested actions during traffic stops to the new version of the handbook.
Denison High School counselor Carrie Boettger said the district will discuss the best way to incorporate the curriculum next summer.
“I think it will provide a better understanding so students can see the issues from every angle,” Boettger said. “It may help students see the police angle and what they deal with. And it may help them with interactions with the police to think it through on how their actions or reactions might be perceived differently than intended.”
Sherman Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Susan Whitenack said the criminal justice program will be part of the implementation of the new instruction.
“We have a very good relationship with the PD,” Whitenack said. “So we want to make sure we have people on campus sharing info with the kids. We know this is an important piece of information for our kids to have. Curriculum is important but we want to make sure we are embedding this into daily life, conversations and leadership skills. We just know this is one of the things we have to talk to about.”
Both schools indicated on-campus police provide a way for students to have positive interactions with officers on a daily basis. Boettger said DHS Security Officers Odis Luper and Kirk Roberts are seen as friends and helpers to students on campus.
“We do have two officers on campus that do a great job of interacting with students on campus,” Boettger said. “That does nothing but help students feel very comfortable with their presence. I believe that does have an impact on the kids. They know them personally. These two are very good at socializing with the kids and being friendly and therefore that does change some kids’ perceptions of police.”
Whitenack explained the presence of first-responders on campus is the first step to building positive relationships.
“They are the helpers of the world,” Whitenack said. “And we want the students to know that. I think all of our children need to have conversations about professional interactions with lots of people. Those are true life skills. We don’t want this to be isolated to just police interactions but I want it to be bigger than that.”
Officials have a year to implement the new curriculum so training can be developed in a way that is consistent between students, new drivers and police officers. The courses will be developed by a committee consisting of member from DPS, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and the State Board of Education.