Two Norfolk teachers put on leave over material about police

Two Norview High School teachers were placed on paid administrative leave this week after a parent complained that they distributed classroom materials that gave advice on how to deal with police if stopped.

The materials – a one-page handout and a video distributed and aired in a 12th-grade government class – are sponsored by two organizations, one a nonprofit that supports legalization of marijuana and one that calls itself a “decentralized anarchist collective.”

The last paragraph of the flier, titled “When Dealing with Police” states, “Remember You have legal rights, but many police will not respect your rights. Be careful – Be Street Smart.”

Schools spokeswoman Elizabeth Thiel Mather said division leaders are investigating the incident over concerns that the materials were unauthorized.

The parent, who asked not to be named out of fear that her daughter could be ostracized or get a lower class grade, told The Pilot that she contacted the division and police after her daughter described the leaflet and video.

“She came home recently and said, ‘You won’t believe what we are learning in Government. They are teaching us how to hide our drugs,’ ” the parent recounted.

Last week, an Oakwood Elementary School employee was placed on leave with pay in connection with the distribution of plastic fetus models to children, which division leaders also considered unauthorized material. Oakwood’s principal was also put on leave in connection with the incident, and an investigation is continuing.

Mather said it is uncommon to have to put staff on leave for using inappropriate materials. The division typically gets no more than two parent complaints a year about the suitability of textbooks or library materials, she said.

The leaflet handed out at Norview describes the rights citizens have if they are stopped or arrested by police or witness police activity. It is posted on the Web here.

A credit on the leaflet reads, “Assembled by the Crimethinc Police Unwelcoming Committee.” On its website, Crimethinc.com calls itself a “decentralized anarchist collective.”

The video, “Busted: Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters,” is posted online here.  It opens with a portrayal of young adults stopped by a traffic officer who searches their car and arrests them for marijuana possession. Other scenes depict police questioning a young man at a bus stop and patrol officers who visit a home where loud partiers are smoking marijuana.

A commentator on the video states, “Whether or not you break the law, this video is designed to explain what the law is and how you can legally and properly assert your constitutional rights through even the most stressful police encounters.”

For each scene, the commentator explains how legal rights apply to police searches of vehicles, homes or individuals and how people can cite those rights during encounters with police.

The video was created by Flex Your Rights, a nonprofit that advocates educating the public about how constitutional protections apply during encounters with law enforcement. The production has gotten 2.3 million viewings on YouTube since November 2006.

The video’s end credits cite funding from the MPP Foundation, which is part of the Marijuana Policy Project. On the Web, the group advocates legal regulation for marijuana and noncoercive treatment for problem marijuana users.

Pilot writers Hattie Brown Garrow, Lauren Roth and Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer contributed to this report.

Steven G. Vegh, (757) 446-2417, steven.vegh@pilotonline.com

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