What you need to know:
Birmingham School Resource Officer Tony Fikes appeared in local news stories on April 9 after the Birmingham Police Department shared a story about him helping a student with his school work. According to the BPD’s post, a teacher asked SRO Fikes to “intervene” when a student with a disability “was having difficulties in class.” The BPD’s post says the student told Fikes “he didn’t want to do his work because he did not like sitting at his desk.” Fikes sat in the hallway with the child while the child did his work.
Fikes clarified in a follow-up comment that no one called him to the classroom. Rather, Fikes walks the hallways regularly, and he was near the classroom when the student was “having a difficult time.” Fikes asked the teacher if he could talk to the student. The teacher agreed. the child told Fikes “he was having some at home issues. He wanted to come in the hallway where it was a little more quieter. He begin to struggle with his work and I helped him.”
Feel good story or a sign of a problem?
Confrontations between SRO’s and students often end much differently. But here, the story shows an SRO de-escalating a situation and helping a student. No Baker Act, no child in handcuffs, no squad car. Many questions remain unanswered, though. For example, we do not know what the student’s “special needs” are. Does the student have supports in place? How was he struggling, and why? Does he have an IEP, 504, or behavior plan? If so, what do those plans say? If not, why not?
Without further information, all we know is that an officer helped a child in need at school. An adult de-escalated a situation, rather than the opposite. An important question remains: is the school meeting this student’s educational needs when he is completing work in a hallway with a police officer? As lawyers like to say, it depends. At the end of the day, though, this officer seems to have done a good deed.