State Law Allows Police Acting as Teachers to Taser School Children

By: David Deschesne

Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal, May 19, 2010, p. 1

As the School Administrative District (SAD) #20 school board for Fort Fairfield schools considers a proposal to allow Fort Fairfield Police officers to function as teachers in Fort Fairfield schools, fears parents have of Taser use on their children may require more serious thought.

A Taser is a gun-type object that electrocutes its victims with a 50,000 volt electric shock, rendering them temporarily incapacitated and in some cases has caused death. Police across the United States have been abusing their Tasers as if they were nothing more than fancy cattle prods to coerce and intimidate the citizenry they serve.

As cited in last edition of the Fort Fairfield Journal, Maine Revised Statutes, Title 17-A, section 106 states a teacher is justified to use a “reasonable degree of non-deadly force against any such person who creates a disturbance when and to the extent that the teacher or other entrusted person reasonably believes it necessary to control the disturbing behavior.” That section of law defines “reasonable degree of force” as “the physical force applied to the child which may result in no more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks.”

Since a Taser, most of the time, only creates a devastating shock, it is classified as “non-deadly” force and does not result in more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks, thereby making it a justified means of punishment or coercion under Maine Law.

The SAD #20 school board is currently considering a proposal that would place uniformed police officers, armed with loaded handguns and Tasers, in the Elementary, Middle and High School classrooms, functioning as teachers under a grant from the Department of Homeland “Security.” However, Fort Fairfield Police Department policy on Taser use doesn’t address officers functioning as school teachers and how Title 17-A would affect Taser usage against the student body.

According to Fort Fairfield Police Department’s Standard Operating Procedure on Taser use, FFPD officers, when acting in a Law Enforcement capacity may use their Taser to “control a dangerous or violent subject when deadly physical force does not appear to be justified and/or necessary; or attempts to subdue the subject by other conventional tactics have been, or will be unsafe for Officers to approach within contact range of the subject.” FFPD policy also says, “The Taser shall never be used for punitive reasons or for the purposes of coercion.”

While FFPD policy prohibits the officer from using a Taser for punishment or coercion when functioning as a law enforcement officer, Maine Law appears to allow the use of Tasers for punishment when that officer is functioning as a school teacher in a school environment.

FFPD policy does not address the use of Tasers on school children when its officers are acting as school teachers, as they would be under the DHS grant program being proposed for Fort Fairfield schools, which means the State law could take precedence and be used by the officer as a defense in the event a Taser is deployed while he is acting as a teacher.

The SAD #20 school board is still continuing research on the use of armed police officers acting as teachers in Fort Fairfield schools and is planning a public hearing on a yet undisclosed date and time sometime this summer. They plan to vote on the proposal during their August, 2010 school board meeting.

SAD #20 school board members are: Paula Perkins, Chair; Shawn Murchison, Scott Clark, Megan Barnes and Dawn Martin.

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