School-based policing under scrutiny after S.C. classroom incident

Last Updated Oct 28, 2015 8:42 AM EDT

In a video taken last month at Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Georgia, the school police officer can be seen approaching fighting students with his taser. Both students were taken down.

School-based policing is the fastest growing segment of law enforcement.

EN_School cops 2
An officer breaks up a fight with his taser at Rockdale County High Schoolin Conyers, Georgia

Susan Ferriss, a reporter for the non-profit Center for Public Integrity, says student behavior that leads to police intervention occurs at the rate of six per 1,000 students nationwide each year. Virginia has the highest state rate: sixteen referrals per 1,000 students.

"Across the the country there are school districts that have high rates, while a school district in a neighboring county may not have any referrals at all," said Ferriss.

"The way that officers are used in schools, the kinds of things that they are asked to get involved in or choose to get involved in, really vary."

South Carolina teen's classmates describe what led to violent arrest

Special needs students make up 14 percent of the student population nationwide, but their referral rate to law enforcement is nearly double that. Black and Latino kids were also referred to law enforcement at rates higher than their percentage of the population.

Officer Don Bridges has worked at Franklin High School near Baltimore for more than a decade. He says the key to handling situations like the one in South Carolina is to train officers to be visible and approachable.

"It is very rare that we would use tactics such as that, often times we are able to overcome situations with verbal de-escalation."

EN_School Cops.jpg
Officer Don Bridges talks with students at Franklin High School nearBaltimore CBS News

Officer Bridges is a member of NASRO, the National Association of School Resource Officers, which provides 40-hour blocks of instruction for any officer new to working in a school.

NASRO told CBS News South Carolina does not allow the group to provide training there.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.