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Use-of-force policy draft on SSD agenda

February 12, 2013

The Starkville School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to discuss possible implementation of a use-of-force policy during its 6 p.m. meeting today at the Greensboro Center.

The policy draft consists of a list of parameters for school resource officers’ use of both non-deadly force and deadly force. Included is a continuum used to determine the severity of a threat that may occur and which use of force should be used to respond to the threat and restore order.

The continuum scale lists six levels of resistance a subject considered to be a threat could pose and levels of control that would be authorized to prevent the potentially dangerous situation from escalating. Verbal commands and nonverbal communication would be used in the event of psychological intimidation. Pepper spray would be authorized for use in the case of a verbal threat. Passive control, or pain compliance, pressure point control or escort techniques, would be used if a suspect continues resistance to school resource officers and refuses to comply with verbal commands but has not resorted to physical violence.
Decentralization would be used in response to active aggression, such as attempting to flee from or fight with an officer. If a threat of bodily injury to officers exists, intermediate force, or weapons, can be employed. Deadly force would be employed only in response to lethal aggression.

School resource officers would have to undergo regular training sessions in order to be certified to use deadly or non-deadly force weapons and their qualification would be based on a pass-or-fail grade.

SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway said the board’s work on the policy draft has been months in the making and that he expects serious discussion on revisions that possibly need to be made before it can be approved and placed into effect.

Discussion on the draft comes on the heels of an incident at Sudduth Elementary School Friday in which the facility was placed on lockdown for 30 minutes after a serious concern involving an adult was brought to the attention of administrators.

“This has moved forward to the point where I think it can be presented as a policy. (The policy) specifies training and conditions under which we would use deadly force,” Holloway said. “We have (school resource officers) operating under Starkville Police Department’s legal force engagements, but if a school incident occurs we need to have our own polices in place. This is specific as to how we would use force.”

In other business, the board will discuss recent interaction between SSD administrators and state legislators regarding Miss. H.B. 716, a bill that calls for the creation of the Starkville Consolidated School District following a merger between SSD and the Oktibbeha County School District.

“(Members of) this board ha(ve) never had the opportunity to discuss consolidation amongst themselves. This is just to inform the board and for them to give us direction on what path they’d like us to take,” Holloway said. “(One of) the two latest concerns I’ve had is that the county never passed a bond issue to improve its school facilities. If that’s a bond authority voters won’t support, the legislature ought to enact (the bond if the consolidation bill passes through the House and Senate). (The second concern is) we will probably need another elementary school building in eight to nine years. If we’re going to have a bond issue, the county doesn’t need to be involved in passing our issue since the county has never passed one.

“We just feel like (legislators’ efforts to consolidate the two districts) are moving really fast without them giving any time to answer the questions we have,” he added.

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