Check Out Texas' New "Police Interaction" Curriculum for High Schoolers

It's come to this, a class teaching Texas high school kids how to interact with police.
It's come to this, a class teaching Texas high school kids how to interact with police. Jim Schutze
In response to multiple deadly police shootings, the 2017 Texas Legislature, led by Dallas state Sen. Royce West, passed the Community Safety Education Act. West's bill requires all high school students, new drivers and police officers in Texas to take a class on how to better interact with one another. This week, the Texas Education Agency released its new "Flashing Lights" curriculum, which every high schooler in the state will have to take to graduate.  It's up to schools to decide which course they want to integrate the police safety material into.

The video, the primary instruction tool for the class, starts with some very cop-drama-sounding music. Then West appears.

“The goal of the act was to define the behavior expectations of citizens and law enforcement during traffic interactions,” West says. “We know that in some communities there’s an issue concerning trust between law enforcement and the community.”

After West's explanation of what the audience is watching, the scene shifts to two young women, with one imploring the other to speed because she's going to be late. The two get pulled over, leading to the video's first important lesson.

"Obviously, if I go over the speed limit, we're gonna get pulled over," says the driver, who's obviously never driven in Dallas.

As viewers learn later, the ensuing traffic stop shows what not to do, according to the curriculum, when you're pulled over by the cops. The women fumble with their phones, open the glove box and generally don't keep their hands where the officers can see them.

Following a Q-and-A about such subjects as what could happen if you get pulled over without a license (you may get arrested but you could just get a citation if an officer can look you up) and whether you're obligated to consent to a search of your car (no) and instructions from Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo about how to file a complaint against an officer, the video shows what teens should do if stopped by the police. Here's a description from the accompanying instruction guide:

• Place the vehicle in park, engage the emergency brake, and turn your engine off.
• Keep both of your hands visible on the steering wheel and passengers should keep their hands
in plain sight.
• Lower your window. This is required by state law.
• Before attempting to access your license or insurance documents, notify the officer of the
location of your items and advise the officer that you are going to get the items.
• Follow the officer’s instructions. When the officer approaches your vehicle, certain movements
such as reaching and searching for required documents, could be interpreted as a threat to the
officer’s safety or indicate possible criminal activity.
• Remain inside the vehicle unless you are instructed to exit by the officer. If instructed to exit the
vehicle, check traffic and do so safely.
• Notify the officer if there is a firearm inside your vehicle. You should store all required
documents in a different location from the firearm.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young