Westerville South High School government teacher Kelley Stocker is among a handful of educators in Ohio — and the only one in Westerville — who are developing the state’s model curriculum for a new instructional requirement for students: proper interactions with peace officers.
Ohio lawmakers passed a law last year that requires schools to teach students in grades 9-12 about appropriate interactions with peace officers, which includes law enforcement officers; school resource officers; city, municipal or township police officers and sheriff deputies; and university and campus officers. The model curriculum covers topics such as:
Proper interactions between peace officers and civilians;
Information on peace officers and their duties and responsibilities;
Questioning and detention laws, including any that require proof of identity and consequences for failure to comply with the laws;
A person’s rights during an interaction with a peace officer;
Demonstrations and role-playing in a classroom setting to allow a better understanding of how interactions between officers and civilians can and should unfold.
According to the law, lessons must be added to courses required for high school graduation. The first group of students impacted by this new state requirement will be the Class of 2027 — this year’s freshmen class. School districts can determine which course will include the lesson; WCSD is still deciding where to embed the unit.
Stocker shared details about the new requirement and shared the draft model curriculum during Tuesday’s Westerville Education Day, where educators and support staff across the district could collaborate with their peers; learn about new initiatives, programs and textbooks; and connect with speakers on topics such as equity, mental health, instructional strategies, classroom management and data assessment.
The Ohio Department of Education developed the draft model curriculum in collaboration with advisory and workgroups consisting of teachers, school administrators, law enforcement, driver education staff, legal rights groups and community members.
Stocker said the curriculum provides students an understanding of expectations when interacting with a peace officer as a juvenile and an adult. Students aren’t the only ones receiving lessons — law enforcement academies are including training on how to engage with the public, particularly young people.
“The purpose behind the law is to put focus behind the individual role that each party plays in ensuring a positive interaction,” Stocker said during the first of two sessions she hosted at WE Day. “It’s not one party or another — both play a role in how that interaction is going to go.”
“The hope is that it will result in more positive interactions for both parties.”