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Legislator Wants Mandatory Class to Teach Teens How to Deal with Cops

To paraphrase John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” the good news is this won’t be like Algebra 101. Teenagers are actually going to use it in real life.

Texas Sen. John Whitmire will introduce legislation to mandate traffic-stop etiquette classes for 9th-grade students. In other words, the kids will be taught how to act when they’re pulled over by a cop – or, worst-case scenario, when they are arrested.

Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, said his legislation was part of an effort by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which he chairs, to “reduce the number of injuries and death to or by law enforcement officers.”

“That is so … depressing,” Oliver said, “especially when you realize that is probably the only class where nobody will raise their hand and say, ‘When are we ever going to use this?’”

So, that’s the good news: This will not be just another useless high school class that kids can be forgiven for sleeping through.

The bad news is that, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorialized, the kids have to be taught how to behave with a police officer in the first place.

“What a heartbreaking truth,” the Star-Telegram’s editorial board wrote. “The thought that we would have to use resources and teachers just to make sure students have the right tools to prevent a possible violent encounter should frustrate and appall Texans.”

Whitmire’s bill would require the State Board of Education to establish rules for a new curriculum section for high school freshmen on law enforcement duties and interaction. The bill is part of an effort to combat escalated situations between officers and civilians.

Whitmire told WOAI-AM that 9th graders have to learn how to behave, and most importantly, they need to be taught that in a confrontation with a police officer, they are not going to come out on top.

"It's just that simple," Whitmire said. "And I think a lot of young people are not being told that by their families.”

Too many teenagers, he said, don’t understand the rules and make it up as they go along the first time they have an encounter with law enforcement. Of course, peer pressure is also a factor.