The officer was responding to a complaint that the student had been disruptive and refused to leave the classroom. His response included grabbing the student, flipping her and her desk, pinning her down and dragging her out the door.
Prior to this year, there was little focus on disproportionate discipline at the state level in North Carolina.
But in April, legislators introduced a bill that would have directed the Department of Public Instruction to monitor discipline disproportionalities, referrals to the criminal justice system and positive interventions, said Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, one of the bill’s primary sponsors.
Though the bill did not receive a hearing or vote, the North Carolina School Boards Association agreed to draft a model policy to guide school districts on addressing discipline disproportionalities.
“There is some element of it being a one-time dramatic occurrence, but the fact of the matter is that it is occurring everywhere, especially in North Carolina, especially in Wake County Schools,” said Chiraayu Gosrani, a Students for Education Reform UNC co-chapter leader and a Daily Tar Heel columnist.
Gosrani said using police officers in schools can be necessary to alleviate actual threats, but using them for everyday discipline issues is wrong.
“Even if she was being arrested it doesn’t call for the use of force at all, I just don’t understand it at all,” he said.
Cornell Lamb, captain of administration for the Carrboro Police Department, said the department would have handled the incident differently. He said they would have separated the student from her class and notified her parents with the principal, officer and teacher present.
“We would not, as officers, be in there in that kind of situation where a student is refusing to leave a classroom,” Lamb said.
He described the incident as a school issue and, ultimately, the school’s responsibility. Lamb said his department only works with violations of the law.
Meyer said though the bill was unsuccessful, it began efforts to offset disproportionate discipline in the state.
State Superintendent June Atkinson agreed to convene a working group including representatives from the Department of Public Instruction among other state departments, local school districts, universities and advocacy organizations to address the issue at an administrative level.
The working group has been meeting for six months and will continue working into next year.
Meyer said he faced resistance to these efforts because some people fear putting a spotlight on discipline data will lead to more schools and school districts being sued.
He said schools and districts can be sued for disproportionalities, but providing leadership from the state should help address this discipline proactively and help avoid lawsuits.
“We need to help teachers and administrators use restorative justice and other practices that address behavior problems in a way that helps students learn from their mistakes and stay connected to their school,” Meyer said.