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Changes limit liaison officers ability to enforce behavioral issues at school

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Amarillo, TX - Public school liaison officers no longer have the ability to enforce certain behavioral issues.     

Recent changes in legislation are making it harder for officers to enforce certain punishments, as a result of Senate Bill 393. 

"It took the ability for the police to write citations for Class C criminal violations in the schools," said Sgt. Jerome Godfrey with the Amarillo Police Department. 

Some of those Class C misdemeanors include, fighting in school, having tobacco under the age of 18 and damaging school property.

The Amarillo School District says a student  would only receive a citation after several disciplinary steps had been taken. But, now that the citation is  no longer an option, Christina Ritter with the Amarillo High School Cluster, says she sometimes feels like her hands are tied. 

"If for instance you are working with a very difficult student and it was a last resort in addition to the other disciplinary actions they received, it's taken one item off of the table that you used to have as an option, and that can be frustrating," she told us. 

It's also putting liaison offers in a difficult spot. If they feel like a citation is necessary and the student is under the age of 16, there are multiple steps that must be followed before anything can be done.  

"There's not an immediate consequences. It may be months before something comes back on it," said Sgt. Godfrey, who also oversees all AISD liaison officers. 

While some are saying it's better to let the schools deal directly with punishments, the district worries it may be sending the wrong message to students.
  
"You may not get a citation at school but if you behave this way at the mall, it's different than school and I think that can send a huge mixed signal to a student and I don't think that's appropriate to send," Ritter said. 
It's important to note that liaison officers still have the ability to arrest students depending on the severity of the situation.  
   
And because teens 17 and older  are considered adults, they are exempt from the change and still could be issued an immediate citation.  
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