Texas Teens Can't Graduate High School Until They've Been Told How To Behave Around Cops
from the HOW-NOT-TO-GET-SHOT dept
To graduate from high school in Texas, you must first be able to show you won’t provoke police officers into shooting/tasing/beating you during a traffic stop. That’s according to a new state law that ran through the legislature under the guise of solving police/community relationship problems. (via Popehat)
In the aftermath of several fatal police shootings of unarmed citizens, Texas lawmakers sought to pacify tensions between law enforcement and civilians. The state legislature brought civil rights groups and law enforcement organizations together to develop a solution: the Community Safety Education Act, which was signed into law last year.
The bill requires any student entering ninth grade in the 2018-2019 academic year and thereafter to participate in a class and watch a video instruction on how to interact properly with officers during traffic stops. Without a notation of attendance on their transcripts, seniors cannot receive diplomas.
To “pacify tensions” brought about by cops killing unarmed people, we’re instructing teens to become docile subhumans who should only respond to the presence of law enforcement in the manner law enforcement prefers. That’s the gist of the Community Safety Education Act Instructor’s Guide [PDF], which not only tells people to remain suitably cowed during traffic stops, but also gets the law wrong.
The problems with the instruction manual (and the law… and required course itself…) begin at the beginning, in the “Tips for Educators.” The guide says instructors should remind students of their rights, as well as warn them that exercising them could get them killed.
Students may ask about citizens videotaping traffic stops. It is a citizen’s right to videotape. Drivers and passengers should be aware that unknown items in a citizen’s hand may cause safety concerns for officers.
In short, it’s best not to record a stop for your own personal safety because there’s no telling what a professional highly-trained in law enforcement and force deployment might do if they see something in someone’s hand — even if that something is 1,000,000x more likely to be something everyone carries with them (a cellphone) than a weapon. Most people aren’t going to escalate a traffic stop into a murder one charge. But that’s hardly reassuring to highly-trained law enforcement officers, who are led to believe every interaction with the public carries the potential of death and destruction and respond to every movement like bunnies scattering at the sound of a stepped-on twig.
Since highly-trained law enforcement officers are completely unpredictable, it’s up to Texas’ education system to crank out harmless teen drivers. Hence the stupid law and the stupid course, which comes with graduation strings attached.
The “notes for drivers” says it’s “recommended” officers treat drivers courteously, but there’s certainly no law requiring courteous behavior, much less one that withholds a police academy diploma until would-be officers of the law complete their “Don’t Be An Asshole” course.
The advice given is basically this: do everything a cop tells you unless they tell you to stop doing it or to do something else. The course says students have the right to refuse vehicle searches, but kind of portrays assertions of rights as a way to get arrested.
And the guide gets the law wrong: specifically, Texas’ “failure to identify” statute. Here’s what the guide says:
Although it is lawful for you to remain silent during a traffic stop, you are required by law to truthfully identify yourself when asked to do so by an officer. A driver or passenger can be arrested for giving false identifying information to an officer.
The second part is true. The first part isn’t. That’s OK. Texas law enforcement officers can’t manage to wrap their minds around this law, so it’s unsurprising a teacher’s guide put together by politicians is inaccurate. The law actually says [emphasis added]:
A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.
A traffic stop is a detention, not an arrest. It likely makes little difference in the context of a traffic stop, where documents asked for by officers will likely identify the driver with or without their verbal input. But placing this misinformation inside a required course will likely cause students to think this applies everywhere, not just during traffic stops. It doesn’t. An officer needs to arrest a person before they can legally demand identification. And officers can’t use a refusal to provide identification as the basis for an arrest.
Passengers aren’t required to ID themselves. They’re only forbidden from providing false information — the same as the driver. But the teacher’s guide makes the same mistake again in its “Notes for passengers.”
Although it is lawful for you to remain silent during a traffic stop, you are required by law to truthfully identify yourself when asked to do so by an officer.
The law does not require this. It does not require it of drivers, even though proving you can legally operate a vehicle tends to undermine any “remaining silent” about your identity. Passengers, however, have nothing to prove, so this course is telling high school students something that simply isn’t true and will only contribute to Texas law enforcement’s continued abuse of the statute.
It would be bad enough if the mandatory course was limited to “pacifying tensions” by implying unpredictable civilians are what really needs to be fixed. But the course goes even further by getting the law wrong. So, high school students will be forced to attend a pointless course containing misinformation to be considered educated enough to secure a diploma.