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Atlanta schools leader says changes needed in classroom policing

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said she wants to change how police interact with the district’s students, citing a controversial classroom incident in South Carolina between a student and law enforcement to outline her concerns.

“I am down for a completely different approach when it comes to safety and support for students in school,” Carstarphen said in a meeting Tuesday evening with the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists.

Carstarphen made the comments in response to a question about the ongoing federal investigation of a sheriff’s deputy in Columbia, S.C. who dragged a 15-year-old female student from a classroom. Carstarphen called the incident “horrible” and said she’s concerned that some officers act overly aggressive with students, particularly African-American male students. The deputy under investigation in Columbia is white and the student is black.

Carstarphen said APS is the only metro Atlanta school district that does not have its own school resource officers who are trained by the district. City of Atlanta police officers are responsible for security inside Atlanta’s public schools. Officers, she said, need to deal differently with students.

Carstarphen AABJ“Street cops in public schools does not necessarily make for the best, caring environment,” she said.

Carstarphen and Atlanta school board members have had recent discussions about the pros and cons about the district taking a more active role in how school officers are trained.