Lawmakers want more training for school resource officers dealing with special education students

Albuquerque News

ESPANOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Lawmakers are trying to change the way students are disciplined, especially special education students, after incidents in Farmington and Espanola.

An Albuquerque State Representative believes the solution all starts with the school resource officers.

“The school resource officer is a really good point of value for the families and the teachers in this space to really promote the relationship building,” says State. Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, Bernalillo (D).

As an Albuquerque Public Schools resource officer himself, Ruiloba has seen problems within the schools involving suspensions and incarcerations of students, especially those in special education. He believes all of that can be reduced by creating a better relationship between the student and the school resource officer.

“The role of the school resource officer in reducing some of that risk by building relationships, communicating with the families about what kind of de-escalation measures they use,” he says.

On Wednesday, Ruiloba and other staff members from APS presented their case before the Legislative Education Study Committee in Espanola. Ruiloba says this conversation isn’t something new to the committee.

In the last session, he sponsored House Bill 330 and 490 to require all law enforcement officers to undergo additional training to be able to handle tense situations with students. Those bills didn’t pass.

He’s hoping Wednesday’s meeting will help get those bills where they need to be in the next session.

“Training is going to be the most important thing, I feel, and secondary, identifying the role of the police officer so it’s more restorative instead of responsive,” says Ruiloba.

An example mentioned during Wednesday’s meeting involved Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes. Back in May, Barnes tased a 15-year old special education student. Ruiloba believes situations like these can easily be prevented.

“The officer building relationships and understanding what the student’s needs are, and prevent or de-escalate the situations,” he says.

Ruiloba says APS Police will start to incorporate this type of training with their resource officers soon.

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