The mother of an 11-year-old boy with autism, in tandem with the ACLU, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday that claims the Douglas County (Colorado) school district failed to properly train school resource officers for dealing with students with disabilities.
The suit comes after an August 2020 incident at Sagewood Middle School in which her son, identified as A.V., either stabbed or scratched another student with a pencil after the other student was drawing on him with a marker. The lawsuit says that incident drew blood, but that the other student said it didn’t hurt.
A spokeswoman for the Douglas County sheriff’s office, Lauren Childress, said through a statement that an original call reported something more serious, specifically that a student was stabbed with a pair of scissors and that a staff member was assaulted.
The suit is looking for unspecified damages, and named Douglas County School District, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, along with three deputies who participated in the arrest. The deputies, as well as the sheriff, were sued individually.
Three-and-a-half minutes of the arrest, as seen through the body camera of one of the deputies, was made available online by the ACLU. While additional context is lacking due to editing down the full (far lengthier) arrest, watching that video seems like the minimum for developing a strong opinion here. The clip shows deputies trying to talk to him and then, around 40 seconds, proceeding to handcuff him, which is when the situation falls into disorder:
As for the aftermath, the suit says the boy was left handcuffed and alone for two hours. It also claims officers didn’t seek medical attention despite knowing that the boy banged his head on the patrol car’s plexiglass partition. He was taken to a youth detention center, and held on $25,000 bail (which was posted the same day).
The boy was originally charged with assault, assault on a police officer, harassment and resisting arrest, but, according to his mother, those were dropped after his parents agreed to put him through a one-year diversion program.
The ACLU of Colorado who, as we mentioned, are also plaintiffs in the suit, claim that the student’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fourth Amendment were violated.
An ACLU attorney, Arielle Herzberg, said to 9Wants to Know that the student should’ve gotten understanding due to his condition, which was described as well-documented.
“A.V. was calming down with a school psychologist when the school resource officers approached him aggressively, and threatening him and handcuffed him,” said Herzberg. “So a situation that could have been handled constructively turned out to be a criminal matter.”
When asked by the outlet if she thought there was any instance in which cops handcuffing an 11-year-old could be justified, she reportedly said “In my view, counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses, should be called in in situations – especially with children with disabilities. Not cops.”
The boy’s mother did say he has had his troubles in school since kindergarten, and that there had been past calls to police about his behavior.
She said that “he struggles with aggression and communication.” She claims that info should’ve been known by the authorities involved.
“My son is a loving, caring, funny kid,” she added. “You know, he struggles with communication. He struggles with social environment sometimes, and struggles with touch and sensory stuff. And, again, everybody should’ve known that. It’s been very documented.”