Reaction to SRO Forcibly Removing Student Video

The video at this link has caused a media uproar in the past 24 hours.

The video depicts a School Resource Office forcibly removing a female high school student from a classroom after she refuses to follow his instructions to leave the classroom. I spent three years as a Behavior Interventionist at a Des Moines middle school and 12 years as a building level administrator at the high school and middle school level. I can honestly say I found myself dealing with a student who refused to leave a classroom at least 100 times.

There are some who say a student refusing to leave a classroom is not a danger to themselves or others so nothing should happen. I respectfully disagree with this perspective strongly. It is not okay to allow a student to refuse to leave and then just continue on with class. I have seen administrators make this choice and it is a disaster. This DOES NOT mean you call law enforcement and they drag the student and the desk out the door while slamming the student on the floor as we witnessed in this video.

When I found myself in this situation, it was usually the result of a power struggle with the adult and the student. Once the student was in open defiance and disrespect, the situation had to be handled, but I also managed the adult situation after the fact to make sure the chance of repeating this situation was greatly minimized. Sometimes it wasn’t an adult issue, and just a student that needed to be dealt with in a very antagonistic moment.

I don’t know what happened prior to the filming starting in this video, but I am guessing this was a GIANT verbal power struggle that resulted in a very pissed off officer who reacted while angry. Since no one was in immediate danger there was definitely time to take a step back and make some better choices.

The best choice in this situation would be to remove the audience. When approaching a student who refuses to leave a classroom after repeated requests, I would get down to their level and explain that I was not going to put my hands on them, but I would be calling law enforcement for assistance. I would then tell them that I was going to clear the room of all the other students and adults until help could arrive. In almost every instance that the situation got to this level, the student would get up and leave when I told the class to leave.

If the room clear didn’t work, I would call parents or another relative and see if they could offer assistance. Sometimes talking to their parent or other relative on the phone would diffuse the situation and the student would comply. If that didn’t work, I did go ahead and call law enforcement, usually our School Resource Officer if she/he were available. With no audience, the addition of law enforcement worked for me in all but a few instances.

In the couple of instances where law enforcement did not result in compliance, the office called for back-up. He/she did not try and remove a non-dangerous student from the classroom by him/herself.

Another trick that I used over and over again for a very agitated, “I’m not doing anything you ask me to do” student would be to approach the student in the classroom and tell them I had another situation down the hall and we needed to go there first and then I would deal with their situation after we resolved that other situation. Distraction can be genius at timesJ

The bottom line is that this video exemplifies excessive force at its most alarming and there are must more effective strategies to use in a situation like this one.