ACLU Calls For Ban On Nonlethal Weapons In Schools After Tased Student Ends Up In Coma

from the attacks-the-symptom-but-not-the-disease dept

The fallout continues to accumulate from an in-school altercation that left a student in a medically-induced coma after being tased by a school resource officer (read: sheriff’s deputy). In addition to a lawsuit being filed against the school and sheriff’s office by the student’s parents, a collection of civil rights groups is now calling for a ban on the use of nonlethal weapons by school police officers.

The request to bar nonlethal weapons was made by the ACLU, the Texas Appleseed group, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Disability Rights Texas, Texans Care for Children, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Texas.

“Tragic incidents like this one demonstrate why the state should not grant police free rein to wield weapons in schools for the apparent purpose of maintaining order,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “Schools should be safe havens from this type of police use of force. I hope the commission will heed our call to end use of Tasers and pepper spray.”

This attacks part of the problem. These weapons are often deployed carelessly because of their “nonlethal” descriptor. The indiscriminate use of Tasers has resulted in serious injuries and death over the past several years but banning these nonlethal weapons leaves officers employed by schools with few options when the use of force is necessary.

The use of Tasers and pepper spray was defended by Chief C.A. “Chuck” Brawner, of the Spring Branch Independent School District police force, who said nonlethal weapons are necessary so officers don’t have to use firearms or nightsticks on unarmed students…

“When you take away the pepper spray and you take away the Taser, what do you have left?” Brawner said. “What if there are several people and you have one officer and they can’t control them and they could get away and cause other problems, how do you stop them? When you start taking away other options other than a firearm or a nightstick, what else are you going to use?”

A ban of Tasers and pepper spray would arguably make things worse, leaving officers with the option of beating or shooting students when things get out of hand. This problem needs to be approached from a different direction if schools hope to prevent this sort of thing in the future.

More training is obviously key, and not just training officers on how to deploy nonlethal weapons more “safely,” but training them how to resist the impulse to deploy nonlethal weapons when the situation doesn’t warrant it. This is much trickier. Fights have occurred in schools for as long as schools have been around. For years, they were broken up by faculty with no training and no weapons, lethal or not. The prevailing belief that only a law enforcement officer can control fighting students is not only wrong, but it’s led to on-campus officers handling a great deal of the intervention and discipline that administrators themselves used to handle, often with regrettable results.

This has the effect of turning a common schoolyard fight into a criminal activity, and the response tends to be tailored more towards stopping a street fight than breaking up an altercation between students. If the students aren’t using weapons (and they shouldn’t be, what with all the other policies in place), then the responding officer shouldn’t feel a need to use a weapon either.

If the situation seems to be escalating dangerously, the on-campus officer should have several nonlethal options to deploy before turning the situation deadly. But even the deployment of tasers and pepper spray should be a last resort rather than something used to quickly nullify the perceived threat. The safety of the students should still be paramount. Deploying a Taser simply because someone isn’t moving fast enough, being responsive enough or simply “looking threatening” is not the correct response.

I agree with the ACLU’s assertion that schools should be a “safe haven” from the use of force, but a ban will have negative consequences, especially if the underlying issues (the use of police officers as a disciplinary tactic; the overuse of force by resource officers) aren’t addressed. Instead of a tasing that leads to a coma, we’ll have gunshots and blunt force trauma. There’s a culture grown from zero tolerance policies and its attendant paranoia that infects administrators and the officers they employ. This needs to addressed before we can start removing nonlethal options.

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Comments on “ACLU Calls For Ban On Nonlethal Weapons In Schools After Tased Student Ends Up In Coma”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Stop calling them "nonlethal"

Technically they should be nonlethal on most people if used correctly excluding people with allergies or other health problems (cardiorespiratory issues mainly).

Obviously depending on how you deploy those weapons they can become lethal. See rubber bullets. If aimed in the head they can be lethal depending on where they hit.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Stop calling them "nonlethal"

Medicine can be lethal poison if used in certain conditions. It doesn’t make them poison. You are exaggerating. You can turn a whole lot of things into lethal weapons if you use them with the intent to kill (ie: chairs, cooking knives, pipes etc).

These weapons are nonlethal albeit this fact does not prevent them from being lethal if used with intent to kill. Tase someone then keep tasing them while on the ground and you will probably manage to make them have a heart stroke or some bad damage. However this is not the way a taser is supposed to be used.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stop calling them "nonlethal"

as with real bullets a leg shot or knee arent usually lethal .. but you only hear about chest shots anymore so pretty much anything used to by law enforcement is lethal its fun for them being above the law ..i remember a time when the police were told to shot in the leg

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Stop calling them "nonlethal"

as with real bullets a leg shot or knee arent usually lethal

Most shots aren’t “immediately” lethal. Shots that clip the heart or a major artery/vein, or shots to the head may be immediately lethal, and shots that hit the spinal cord between the head and the neck are almost always immediately lethal (severing the spinal cord there will result in the lungs and heart immediately not working), but other shots, even to vital organs will likely not be immediately lethal. Even a sucking chest wound, or a collapsed lung will not kill you instantaneously. Hollywood lies.

The danger always comes with bleeding out, and even a leg wound can be lethal if not taken care of.

i remember a time when the police were told to shot in the leg

I remember a time when police were told to stand sideways when firing (though I was very young at the time,) but other then Hollywood movies, I don’t think police were ever told to shoot the legs. The center of mass is the easiest place to hit, and thus hitting somewhere in the milk-bottle is far easier than to the legs. Plus, the legs have some of the biggest arteries/veins in the body, so a hit to the leg may be fatal.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

What do they mean by non lethal weapons? Police officers ARE the problem. There is no way that anyone actively employed in law enforcement should be on school property, employed or otherwise.

Introducing a police presence on school property? If the parents of every child in these schools were smart, they would refuse to send their children to school until these police officers are removed.

Introducing law enforcement in the middle of public education facilities is just asking for a recipe for disaster because police officers are not properly trained to deal with children.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:


Age is generally irrelevant, but I also share similar concerns like Kenichi.

Sometimes even the babes may utter wisdom. While one must always consider the source, you should also consider the message as well. Liars may utter the truth too, and while it may be difficult to do so, you must still stand for the truth and back it up, even when uttered by a despicable liar. Same goes for when the ignorant produce wisdom regardless of how accidental it may be.

Police and Children do not mix well for some very obvious reasons, and their over use in schools has become a very obvious problem. This is very revealing of a ‘Police State’ mentality the USA has been adopting at every turn now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Then consider this:

In the 80’s an explosion of violence happened, in schools, teachers were being killed along with students. Gangs became the plague, and with it came the vigilantes trying to stop it people in their 30’s and 40’s adding to the violence stats.

Although the violence fell a lot since then, one can see it didn’t stop, violence youth still roam the school system, you can see they posting fight videos on Youtube, you can see them posting the “knockout game” where you try to knockout someone with one punch, these things are not knew in fact they came from the 80’s.

Another reason why it happened is because even though law enforcement is poorly trained to deal with juveniles, so are teachers that have no power over the violent among the group, and those violent ones also have support in their behavior by parents that can’t believe their own kids could do such things or are just as misguided as their children, violent parents breed violent kids.

Probably like everything else in life the answer is something in the middle.

Police officers should be more responsible and they should get proper training to deal with those things, they should also be supervised by school members, cameras or whatever so slowly people start seeing the problems and fixing them, parents of violent kids should be forced to be evaluated by a professional to see where the problem is and give those too proper training and the tools they need to get their kids under control, in America this probably will mean that some will try to make a law increasing liability for parents, cops, teachers and etc so everybody under fear will comply, I believe in carrots first not sticks.

But really this is all just academic, what we need is data, which Keinichi, Gwiz, you and I can’t offer because there is none, there are no social experiments being conducted, there are no meaningful research into it and that too is part of the problem.

What we do need now is to start paying attention to the issues, start collecting data to understand the problem and start experimenting to find solutions.

I want scientific methods now, that emotional crap is not working, it hasn’t work for the last 30 years and probably will never work, why people keep doing it?
Veritasium: Is Punishment or Reward More Effective?

Where all that agressivity is coming from?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Age is generally irrelevant, but I also share similar concerns like Kenichi.

I agree that age is generally irrelevant. And I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with his stance on this particular issue. My observation is based his cumulative comments – he doesn’t seem to carry his ideas and thoughts out to their logical conclusions and I was wondering if that was due to a lack of real world life experiences, that’s all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m 33 and I (almost) completely agree with kenichi tanaka. I just don’t like the fact that he wouldn’t allow anyone in law enforcement to pick up their child or participate in any school activities.

Where I live there is no police in schools. Kids still have fights, but school staff is responsible for discipline. I wouldn’t think of sending my kids to a school with a permanent police presence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, good idea. Remove the police officers so we can go back to the way it was before, when students would run amok and knife several people before the police showed up and either shot and killed the student, or beat the student to the point that they may as well have been dead. That makes so MUCH more sense.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The cast majority of schools never had any of the problems you cite. If a particular school really has such severe problems that cops are necessary, bring them into that particular school as a temporary measure until the problem can be resolved.

But putting cops in schools as a matter of routine practice is crazy and dangerous.

BeeAitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Unfortunately, it’s not as new an idea as you think. I graduated from high school in 1984 (I know, I’m old) and we had 2 detectives assigned to our school. They even had (shared) an office.

My high school was one of 5 in town, had a student population of ~2000 and was considered one of the “better/safer” schools.

Anecdotally, I couldn’t tell the if the police presence made a difference one way or another: they were just there.

There were still fights, drugs, kids going to class drunk and/or high, occasional weapons, etc.

Looking back on it, maybe they were just collecting an easy paycheck………

Anonymous Coward says:

Light bulb moment.

Students with a history of violent behavior should use a garment with movement restrictors, you know more or less like seat belts work you have full movement if that movement is slow and easy, but the minute you try to go faster it get snagged.

Nasa actually build a garment that used wires to keep pressure on, and there are hundreds of patents for posture correctors, it should not be difficult to build a kind of garment that when worn would restrict undesirable motion.

And for kicks it should resemble a bunny LoL

Ninja (profile) says:

I’ve just watched a video that makes an insanely funny portrait of law enforcement:

It’s in Portuguese but basically they hired a teacher to teach the cops how to react when confronted with a peaceful protest or manifestation. The first cop to talk yells “rubber bullet” (bala de borracha) for everything.

Seems the subtitles in English are pretty good. Have fun 😉

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Btw just for some context the teachers and doctors from the public (Govt maintained) health and education services have been protesting against their insanely low wages and the work conditions (both services are very poorly maintained) but it’s actually something that has been going on for ages. There have been popular protests also that were met by the police with extreme force (heritage from the dictatorship we lived till the 80’s).

McCrea (profile) says:


“…banning these nonlethal weapons leaves officers employed by schools with few options when the use of force is necessary.”

That’s nonsense implying a problem maintaining in the past when there were fewer weapons to choose from? Without getting in history, though, anybody working next to mental health is trained in takedowns. That includes 4’9″ 105 lbs. females. Being unarmed rather places the majority of risk (still being, arguably, not much) on the staff members, which society should see as acceptible and noble, since staff risks themselves to protect the children.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Silly

The Police are trained In take down techniques as well but most are to doughnut packed they choose the easy button .. I’ve seen a 100lb woman take down a 250lb man and her only point of contact was his hand ……the point that seems to be missing from the official response is that these are kids ..some are 6’4 but still children ..

Anonymous Coward says:

the need for care is wanted here. take away the use of non-lethal weapons is good as long as they are not replaced by some ridiculous argument, with lethal weapons. we read yesterday how a man was shot and is now being charged with offences that could lead to 25 years in prison, not because he actually committed any crime, but because the police officers involved in the incident felt they had no choice but to fire on an unarmed man. the fact that they completely missed the target but wounded innocent bystanders is being used as the reason to try to have the man incarcerated. it seems to be ignored that if the man was not threatening anyone, had no firearm so couldn’t shoot at the police, why they had to shoot at him? also, if they are such piss poor shots, what gives them the right to have deadly weapons in their possession? anyone who wants to use a gun, needs to have particular checks done, including that they can aim in the right direction. it seems to be an unnecessary requirement here, firing indiscriminately is ok!

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: The compromising alternative

They couldn’t just use an Airsoft gun could they?

While airsoft is used sometimes for training, it isn’t standard equipment. And it can be dangerous, especially if the person isn’t wearing eye protection. Having taken a number of airsoft hits, it is painful and will get your attention pretty quickly, but aside from that the risks are too high to be used as anything other than a less than lethal weapon (and they already have enough to carry.) Besides, airsoft looks and works too much like a real weapon, so it is open to the risk of the officer deploying their real weapon thinking it was an airsoft (or vice-versa.)

Anonymous Coward says:

“When you take away the pepper spray and you take away the Taser, what do you have left?”

When you’re used to carrying around weapons and are authorized to use them at your discretion everyone looks like a combatant apparently. I guess this guy hasn’t even considered that everyone else at the school somehow has to deal with students using nothing but words and body language.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Gwiz, I’m in my late 40’s and I’ve been through the public educational system, back when we had a liason officer with the police department. He was always respectful to the students but then again, we didn’t have students bringing guns to school.

Guns, Knifes, Tasers, anything that could be used as a known weapon, should be banned, from both the students, facility staff, teachers AND anyone who is on the premises of any public educational facility.

When you throw police officers into the mix, it’s not “if” something will happen between a cop and a student but “when” it will happen.

You have police officers armed with tasers or personnel who are employed by police departments who are already NOT properly trained in the use of tasers but you throw those officers into an environment with high school students and eventually you’re going to have police officers tasering high school students.

Police officers should be placed in a high school environment because they lack the necessary training and they lack the university or college classes that prepare you for a public educational environment.

Whoever idea it was to put police officers in high schools, and forgive me for saying this as it’s meant as a figure of speech, should either be shot or they should be hung from the nearest tree until the end of time.

It’s the same reason why we do not allow our military to be deployed into the borders of our country, with the sole exception of a national crisis and even that requires the suspension of the Posse Comitatus Act.

Really stupid idea. If police officers need to stationed at schools, then their authority as police officers need to end at the door and they need to be required to be on the property WITHOUT a gun, baton or taser.

High school students are NOT criminals, whether these cops think they are or not.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Guns, Knifes, Tasers, anything that could be used as a known weapon, should be banned, from both the students, facility staff, teachers AND anyone who is on the premises of any public educational facility.

Once again just being curious here, how do you go about enforcing such a policy without having someone who is armed to enforce those rules?

Also, not sure how you would define “anything that could be used as a known weapon”. Would pencils be considered something “that could be used as a known weapon” in the light of this story:

hij (profile) says:

beating a kid should be criminal

I am a little confused as to why it is is not considered a criminal activity to lay down a beating on a kid. Just because it happens in a “schoolyard fight” does not make it any nicer. We can argue as to what sort of punishment should be associated with such an event, but it should be treated as criminal behaviour and should not be considered an acceptable activity.

I agree that the current environment of zero tolerance is extreme and is detrimental to children in many ways. At the same time we should make sure that kids understand that there are expectations about how they interact. Resorting to physical violence should not be laughed off as kids being kids. There should be effective ways to deal with it, but in the end it should not be considered anything other than a criminal act.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Anybody who claims that a weapon is not lethal, no matter the intent of the weapon made, is either an idiot or a fool. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gun, knife, taser or baton. Law enforcement doesn’t consider a baton to be a lethal weapon nor a taser a lethal weapon but yet they are banned for the public to own.

There is a reason why these are considered weapons, whether it’s for defense or offense. Any weapon in the hands of a police officer is a lethal weapon and I find it disingenuous for law enforcement to say that this isn’t so.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

If a 200 pound cop cannot restrain a 95-150 pound high school student, then that cop needs to find another job because he sure as hell has the wrong job.

If a police officer cannot subdue a suspect without a weapon (something that they should be trained to do anyways), then there is no reason in hell why they should be employed as a law enforcement officer.

Their sworn duty is to “protect and serve” not to beat someone to death, shoot them in the head or taser someone until they are in a coma.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why are police there in the 1st place?

“Tragic incidents like this one demonstrate why the state should not grant police free rein to wield weapons in schools for the apparent purpose of maintaining order,”

This comment struck me as exceptionally odd..when I went to school, there were no police walking around (with either lethal or nonlethal weapons) AT ALL.
“Maintaining order” was accomplished by the TEACHERS.

Why is law enforcement doing what teachers should be doing as TEACHERS?

Marginally retarded administrators (which I say freely, since they gave up their ability to THINK when they supported “zero tolerance”) need to rethink (assuming that’s possible) what the teachers are actually there to do. If they can’t maintain order, then empower them to do so – and get these morons with weapons away from our society’s children.

Zonker says:

“What if there are several people and you have one officer and they can’t control them… how do you stop them? When you start taking away other options other than a firearm or a nightstick, what else are you going to use?”

Let me rephrase that so that it makes sense:

“What if there are several officers and you have one kid and the kid can’t defend himself, how do you stop them? When you start taking away all options including firearms and nightsticks, what else can you use to defend yourself?”

Besides, why would police even have more lethal weapons than tasers and nightsticks on school property? I thought there was zero tolerance for weapons in schools. And why is the stated goal of police in the situation to “control them” rather than to “protect and serve”?

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