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Flandreau driver’s education teacher takes new approach to teaching

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Annie Todd
 

| Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Logan Claflin had only been driving for six hours before he was pulled over by the Moody County Sheriff.

While the 14-year-old knew he was going to be pulled over, he frantically checked the rearview mirror. His driver’s education teacher, Wylie Scalise, tried to calm him down with conversation and remind him what they’d gone over in the classroom. 

When the lights on the sheriff’s truck went off, Scalise guided Claflin to a side road and reminded him to put on the emergency lights.

“Put your hands up on the wheel, so he can see your hands,” Scalise said.

The stop, where Troy Wellman, the Moody County Sheriff, told Claflin he was going a bit too fast and that he looked under the age of 18 so he wanted to check if he was wearing a seat belt, was quick and efficient. It was exactly what Scalise was looking for.

During the past two years, Scalise has been taking a different approach to driver’s education in Flandreau, South Dakota. While there’s still a mandatory in-classroom and out-of-classroom experience, Scalise has added a new curriculum standard: getting pulled over. Working in partnership with the Moody County Sheriff’s Office, the Flandreau Police Department and the Flandreau Sioux Tribal Police Department, Scalise’s students are pulled over during their lessons, allowing them the space to learn how to act during a traffic stop.

Practice outside of the classroom

Scalise said that he got the idea for the practice traffic stops when he was speaking with a parent a few years ago whose child was pulled over.

The child chose to pull away from law enforcement and led them on a high speed chase, leading to their arrest and multiple charges, Scalise said.

“That kind of got me thinking maybe we need to train the kids how to do (a traffic stop),” he explained.

In the two years that Scalise has been teaching driver’s education, the traffic stops have been a part of the curriculum. He was the former agriculture teacher at Flandreau High School but will be moving to Alaska to teach in the fall.

He sends a letter home with his students for parents to know that at any time their child may be pulled over during their in-car instruction.

“The parents like it because of building that relationship [with law enforcement] and understanding then what to do,” Scalise said.

Kids also get the chance to speak to Scalise after their traffic stop and ask questions that might have come up during the simulation.

Building relationships

When Scalise approached Wellman about his idea, he said it made sense to participate.

“I have people that are in their middle ages when we pull them over and say, ‘Well, I’ve never been pulled over and don’t know what to do,’” he said. “If we can teach them that as they’re going through driver’s ed, it lessens the panic.”

Before the kids get pulled over, Wellman visits the class to talk about what to do in a situation when they’re pulled over. That includes keeping hands on the wheel where officers can see them.

“If we can see you’re just sitting there, waiting for us to come up there and then get your stuff when we ask for it, that is what we would prefer from our end,” he said.

Scalise doesn’t know when or where the traffic stop will happen, so neither do the students. It adds to the experience, he said.

Wellman said it’s a “normal flight or fight response” to get a little nervous when a person gets pulled over.

“It’s good that they’re learning that young and it gives them another tool to be like ‘okay, it’s not that big a deal,’” he said.

Claflin took a few minutes to calm down after the stop, he acknowledged it was stressful at the time, especially when the sheriff’s lights came on.

Janna Farley, the communications director for the South Dakota ACLU, wrote in an emailed statement that students should know their rights when they get pulled over. The organization has a list of resources for drivers and what they should be aware of, including the right to remain silent and not consenting to an unlawful search of one’s vehicle.

“Being stopped by police can be a stressful experience and drivers should understand how to safely manage traffic stops,” she wrote. 

Possibly the only class of its kind

Christopher Grant, the South Dakota Driver Education Coordinator, said he’s not aware of any other of the 150 driver education courses in the state like Scalise’s.

“It’s an excellent teaching technique. It’s an excellent part of any driver education curriculum. And we certainly encourage other instructors to follow that pattern,” he said.

Overall, the traffic stops give the kids learning a chance to know how their bodies will react, Scalise said.

“I think the thing is not so much to not be stressed but to learn how our body reacts to the situation,” he said. “If we can learn that in a controlled-ish environment, then it’s going to be better than in an environment that we are doing something potentially wrong.”

Follow Annie Todd on Twitter @AnnieTodd96. Reach out to her with tips, questions and other community news at atodd@argusleader.com or give her a call at 605-215-3757.

This content was originally published here.

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