Q. Can student resource officers legally put their hands on students?
A. Yes, officers can use force against students in certain circumstances, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Tuesday.
“Once she was placed under arrest and she has either passive or active resistance, then the officer has certain levels of force that he can use, and that's a force continuum that starts from just verbal commands,” Lott said. “And that's what these officers are trained to do. So ... legally could he put his hands on her and remove her from that classroom? Yes, he could do that. ... What's in question is how he accomplished that.”
Q. What role will the Citizens' Advisory Council play?
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A. Lott said that after the Sheriff's Department's internal investigation into Senior Deputy Ben Fields' actions is completed, his decision on whether or how to discipline the officer will be presented to the Citizens' Advisory Council, formed to boost the department’s accountability to Richland County residents.
“It will be up to them to decide if I took proper action or not, and they'll make a recommendation, basically, and present me their finding. I don't think I need to wait or should wait until it's presented to them,” Lott said. “I think the public demands and expects, and should get a very quick answer on this. And that's what we're going to do.”
Q. Can students use cellphones in class in Richland 2 schools?
A. No. Students are not allowed to use their cellphones during classes, according to the district's student handbook. Students in Richland 2 high schools are allowed to use cellphones before and after school, during their lunch break or when a teacher or administrator has OK’d their use, the handbook says. Cellphones can be confiscated by school faculty for a first offense of the policy, according to the handbook. Students may get permission to use school phones if they need to contact their parents or guardians during the school day, the handbook says.