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Middle school student tased by SRO. What are NC ‘use of force’ laws at schools?

A Concord middle school student was handcuffed on campus in the middle of the day Friday.

But, first, he was tased.

Concord Police said the C.C. Griffin Middle School student allegedly shoved a teacher — a Behavior Management Technician — and disregarded the student resource officer’s orders to put his hands behind his back. He then allegedly punched the officer “numerous times” before the officer used the stun gun and arrested him, according to the police report.

It was the first time a Taser had been used on the school campus in at least two years, said Lindsay Manson, the city’s spokesperson. Now, Concord Police Department is reviewing the “use of force” to ensure it complied with its policies.

There are no overarching guidelines for using stun guns on school campuses, said Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers. Officers must comply with the rules set by their department.

Are there NC taser laws for schools?

North Carolina laws say officers may use force only “when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary,” and those laws don’t change inside schools.

When SROs respond to on-campus events — such as crashes, theft, drug sales or assaults — that would otherwise warrant police intervention off-campus, the “legal standards… are no different than they are anywhere in the community,” according to the National Association of SROs.

Concord police are investigating an incident that left seven CC Griffin Middle School students hospitalized after they consumed an ‘unknown substance’ Friday.
Concord police are investigating an incident that left seven CC Griffin Middle School students hospitalized after they consumed an ‘unknown substance’ Friday.

North Carolina school personnel were assaulted 1,374 times during the 2021-2022 school year, according to the most up-to-date data released by the Department of Public Instruction. There were also 64 assaults resulting in serious injury and 62 assaults involving a weapon.

According to the Concord Police Department’s policies, Tasers are “an alternative to deadly force in situations where time and circumstance permit.” Their primary purpose is “to save human lives and prevent injuries.”

The uniformed officers stationed in some Cabarrus County schools carry both tasers and guns, officials said.

“It’s not always a bad thing when you hear that tool had to be used,” Canady said. “It could very well be, and is likely, that using that tool, when appropriate and under policy and procedure, stopped the situation from worsening.”

Weapon regulations also say “conducted electrical weapons,” like stun guns or Tasers, may be used only when a subject “presents an imminent threat” or may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Canady said he can understand the “initial shock factor” the public feels when an SRO uses a weapon on campus. It’s rare, he said, and so are assaults on officers.

“When I first became a high school SRO in the 90s, I was struck by the size and the strength of some of the students, especially athletes,” he said. “Some of them are walking around in adult bodies still with an adolescent brain… but even with an adolescent brain, they are not going to go to that level (of assault).”

Tasers, stun guns used on students

More than 100 miles west of Concord, a jury in September convicted an Avery County resource officer of contributing to the abuse of a juvenile and willfully failing to discharge his duties when he convinced a 17-year-old to shock herself with a Taser.

In Ohio, one officer was placed on leave in 2018 after he jolted a Taser near a sleeping student to wake her.

NASRO does provide guidelines for selecting officers who have good character and an interest in working with youth, Canady said. Officers must volunteer for school positions, he said. No one should ever be plucked from a different assignment into a school.

“Being an SRO is the most unique assignment in all of law enforcement,” Canady said.

“It requires a unique officer, and it’s not for every officer. Truly, it’s not for most officers.”

The tasing at C.C. Griffin Middle School was not related to an incident that hospitalized seven students after they ate THC edibles, school officials said.