A new Texas law wants students educated in something that is important out in the real world — interacting with a police officer.
The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District began its efforts to provide the class on Thursday. About 1,000 freshmen and seniors at Grapevine High School had their lessons then. The rest of the high school will take the required training by the end of September.
“We want them to avoid any trouble with police that could be avoided just by their actions or their reactions,” said GCISD head of security Allen Smith.
All Grapevine high school students will have taken the training by the end of September. After this year, the school will provide the class to each year’s incoming high school freshmen.
Texas school districts have until 2020 to roll out a newly required high school course on how to interact with police officers, but the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District is getting a head start. https://t.co/tdcpN1gzE8
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“A lot of times people don’t understand the level of tension to the unknown,” said Grapevine Police Sergeant Jason Keller, according to KTTV.
“An officer walking up to a vehicle, approaching a subject that they have no idea who they are, or what they’ve done,” he said, offering an example.
The class explains how to behave during a traffic stop and some basic guidelines for interacting with police officers in the community. The class also offers advice on how to respond as a teenager is being arrested.
“They have a right not to be searched; they have a right not to answer questions,” said Keller. “Your basic right is to remain silent.”
Keller noted that rules on school grounds and rules in the community are often different.
“They do have to pull over. They do have to cooperate,” said Keller. “You can’t lie to a police officer. You can’t give a fake name.”
One question that came up in the class was whether students could record an officer. The response was that is was allowable if it does not interfere with the officer performing his or her duty.
The law was designed to smooth interactions between young citizens and police, said the legislator who sponsored it last year.
“There’s a lot of tension in terms of interactions between law enforcement and citizens in traffic stops,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, according to the Texas Tribune. “We’ve seen some fatalities and we’ve seen people pointing the finger at one another.”
School districts have until 2020 to begin offering the class.
When the bill was passed, one teacher said parents should be the ones who really teach the course.
“The parent is the first teacher. Parents need to start sending their child to school with the attitude, ‘In our families, we respect police officers,’” said Stephanie Stoebe, a teacher at Teravista Elementary in Round Rock ISD, according to the Texas Tribune reported.
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