What school of­fi­cers need to know for safety

The Arizona Republic - - Opinions - Your Turn Katie Paetz Guest colum­nist Katie Paetz is a mem­ber of the Os­born Gov­ern­ing School Board and afifth­grade teacher. She has 14 years back­ground in ed­u­ca­tion. Reach her at katie [email protected]; on Twit­ter: @kpaetz.

Ari­zona needs a school safety bill that in­cludes age-ap­pro­pri­ate trauma in­formed train­ing for school re­source of­fi­cers (SROs). It’s im­por­tant be­cause the role of schools is to pro­vide a safe en­vi­ron­ment for ev­ery­one ev­ery day. Stu­dents that are young, dis­abled, have spe­cial needs or are dis­rup­tive don’t al­ways get this free­dom.

As a teacher and gov­ern­ing board mem­ber, I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a num­ber of school safety sit­u­a­tions. I know first hand that the school safety con­ver­sa­tion can be po­lar­iz­ing, emo­tional and per­sonal for those af­fected by tragedy and those caught in the mid­dle of a dif­fi­cult re­al­ity.

But it doesn’t have to be.

In 2015, the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of School Re­source Of­fi­cers re­leased a po­si­tion state­ment in re­sponse to a school re­source of­fi­cer al­legedly us­ing phys­i­cal re­straints on a child with spe­cial needs and other in­ci­dents in­volv­ing SROs in school dis­ci­plinary sit­u­a­tions.

NASRO rec­og­nized “the crit­i­cal need for SROs to re­ceive spe­cial­ized train­ing in the ed­u­ca­tion of spe­cial-needs chil­dren.” Fur­ther­more, they rec­om­mended that if an SRO uses a phys­i­cal re­straint de­vice — e.g. hand­cuffs or flex cuffs — it should be only in a case that re­quires the phys­i­cal ar­rest of a stu­dent for re­fer­ral to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Be­ing trauma-in­formed means tak­ing into ac­count the whole child and pre­vent­ing re­trauma­ti­za­tion by sys­tems and peo­ple. In other words, as the adults in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to ap­pro­pri­ately de-es­ca­late sit­u­a­tions when stu­dents show non­com­pli­ant and un­safe be­hav­iors.

An SRO’s choice to phys­i­cally re­strain a stu­dent who re­fused to re­move a ban­dana from his head is an ex­am­ple of in­ap­pro­pri­ate es­ca­la­tion and re­trauma­ti­za­tion. Hand­cuff­ing a third-grader for run­ning away to a nearby park be­cause of feel­ings of frus­tra­tion and lone­li­ness is an ex­am­ple of re­trauma­ti­za­tion. A teacher’s choice to name call or shame a stu­dent in front of their peers is an ex­am­ple of re­trauma­ti­za­tion.

Trauma-in­formed schools pro­vide train­ings that give ed­u­ca­tors the tools to stay calm, de-es­ca­late, and help kids get back to learn­ing. But Ari­zona law en­force­ment and the agen­cies that pro­vide train­ing to SROs have been slow to adopt an ap­proach that in­cludes ageap­pro­pri­ate de-es­ca­la­tion prac­tices. This leaves safety gaps for our chil­dren.

Last year’s school safety bill, SB1215, in­cluded a min­i­mum train­ing re­quire­ment for school re­source of­fi­cers that in­cluded school safety and emer­gency re­sponse plans, threat re­sponses and school laws, and vir­tual or sim­u­lated ac­tive shooter train­ing that is spe­cific to school sce­nario. It left out “age-ap­pro­pri­ate de-es­ca­la­tion and trauma-in­formed train­ing” for SROs.

Cur­rently, the build­ing blocks for ef­fec­tive pol­icy are in place.

This past year, the Gover­nor’s Of­fice on Faith and Fam­ily part­nered with the Ad­verse Child­hood Ex­pe­ri­ences Con­sor­tium, a group that has 10 years of en­gage­ment and ex­per­tise in this area.

The most re­cent sum­mit fo­cused on trauma-in­formed ap­proaches in health care, ed­u­ca­tion and law en­force­ment. The mod­er­ate stance would be to cre­ate over­sight at the state level that en­sures trauma-in­formed ap­proaches and train­ing are man­dated for SROs.

To leave this pol­icy pro­vi­sion out will leave com­mu­ni­ties with the bur­den of lob­by­ing a frag­mented govern­ment bu­reau­cracy.

Par­ents want their chil­dren safe in school ev­ery day — not just when there is the threat of an ac­tive shooter.

If the Gover­nor wants to pro­vide SROs for ev­ery school that wants them, then I hope this year’s Leg­is­la­ture will in­sist that ev­ery SRO not only be trained and pre­pared for ex­treme safety emer­gen­cies, but also un­der­stand ev­ery­day prac­tices that pro­mote safe learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments for ev­ery child.

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