Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Several senators at the State House are working to make changes to the "Disturbing Schools" law.
Critics say the law doesn't clearly state what it means to be disruptive at schools and thus students have been arrested at higher rates.
Disturbing schools is the second most frequent offense at the department of juvenile justice behind assault and battery.
That could change with legislation before the senate judiciary committee.
"Historically disturbing schools was passed to protect students from outside influences in the school,” says Senator Brad Hutto, (D) Orangeburg. "What's happened over recent years is that the statute has been used to actually arrest students at schools and that was not the intent."
During the 2014-2015 school year, 1,222 students statewide were arrested under the disturbing schools law. 97 of them were arrested in Richland County.
That’s a number Sheriff Leon Lott is working to lower.
"What we've done in Richland County is that our school resource officers will not charge anyone with that law,” says Sheriff Lott.
This comes after a 2015 incident at Spring Valley High School. There, a school resource officer was called to a classroom and eventually threw a student who was allegedly disturbing the classroom.
The student, along with another student in the classroom, were charged with disturbing schools.
Sheriff Lott says the law has been abused.
"We have had students that have been arrested for things that on the outside world wouldn't be considered a crime,” says Sheriff Lott. Chewing gum in the class, not putting your phone up, there's too much interpretation and it's caused school resource officers to be brought into discipline and classroom management and that's not what we're here for."
Hutto says the goal is to keep kids in the classroom.
"That's a behavioral issue, it's a discipline issue, it's not a criminal issue and that's why it's important that we clarify it."
The bill was carried over for a full judiciary committee discussion, which is set to take place next week.
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