Monday, April 23, 2018
Remember the School Resource Officer Who Drug a Girl Across the Floor by Her Neck--South Carolina Is on the Verge of Change the Law That Gave Him Authority
It has been a long road getting here and the state is still not to the finish line yet, but South Carolina appears primed to narrow the circumstances under which school resource officers can act with force against public school students.
In October 2015, a video of law enforcement officer pulling a student out of her chair by the neck and dragging her across the floor when viral. It has generated a nearly three-year-long conversation about the efficacy of school resource officers in public schools and the authority they should or should not have. South Carolina's Disturbing Schools Law current provides that:
It shall be unlawful: (1) for any person willfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State, (b) to loiter about such school or college premises or (c) to act in an obnoxious manner thereon; or (2) for any person to (a) enter upon any such school or college premises or (b) loiter around the premises, except on business, without the permission of the principal or president in charge.
Officers can also use the state's disorderly conduct law. The ACLU challenged both statutes as unconstitutional, putting additional pressure on the state to improve its laws. Since then, the state has been batting around several alternatives, but has yet to pass anything. The ACLU's recent victory in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just put even more pressure on the state to act. (Read the full opinion here: Download 2018-03-15 Written order 4th Circuit).
On April 5, the state senate voted 33-8 to approve these changes to the Disturbing Schools Act:
"Section 16-17-420. (A) It shall be is unlawful:
(1) for any person wilfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State, (b) to loiter about such school or college premises or (c) to act in an obnoxious manner thereon; or
(2) for any person to (a) enter upon any such school or college premises or (b) loiter around the premises, except on business, without the permission of the principal or president in charge. for a person who is not a student to wilfully interfere with, disrupt, or disturb the normal operations of a school or college in this State by:
(1) entering upon school or college grounds or property without the permission of the principal or president in charge;
(2) loitering upon or about school or college grounds or property, after notice is given to vacate the grounds or property and after having reasonable opportunity to vacate;
(3) initiating a physical assault on, or fighting with, another person on school or college grounds or property;
(4) being loud or boisterous on school or college grounds or property after instruction by school or college personnel to refrain from the conduct;
(5) threatening physical harm to a student or a school or college employee while on school or college grounds or property; or
(6) threatening the use of deadly force on school or college property or involving school or college grounds or property when the person has the present ability, or is reasonably believed to have the present ability, to carry out the threat.
(B) For the purpose of this subsection, 'person who is not a student' means a person who is not enrolled in, or who is suspended or expelled from, the school or college that the person interferes with, disrupts, or disturbs at the time the interference, disruption, or disturbance occurs.
(B)(C) Any person violating any of the provisions who violates a provision of this section shall be section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, on upon conviction thereof, shall pay a fine of, must be fined not more than one two thousand dollars or be imprisoned in the county jail for not more than ninety days one year, or both.
(C) The summary courts are vested with jurisdiction to hear and dispose of cases involving a violation of this section. If the person is a child as defined by Section 63-19-20, jurisdiction must remain vested in the Family Court."
The bill was referred to the state house and now is before its judiciary committee. The amendment also got a big boost last week from law enforcement. The Post and Courier reports:
the director of the state Commission on Prosecution Coordination told legislators that all law enforcement groups support the bill. "This gets us where we need to be. There are outrageous examples of how this law has been abused in the past," said Director David Ross, who represents solicitors statewide. "I wonder how we even let it go for this long."
The law is far from what I would I would call a complete fix, but it would replace the most vague aspects of the law that prohibit undefined things such as interference, disturbance and obnoxious behavior with more precise prohibitions.
--on Twitter @DerekWBlack