Officers for a Colorado school district have been accused of wrongly handcuffing an autistic 11 year-old who “cried in pain” during his arrest.
The incident, which took place at Sagewood Middle School in August 2019, was the subject of a court filing at the United District Court for Colorado on Monday, following the recent release of body camera footage.
School resource officers (SROs) for Douglas County, Colorado, were accused of “aggressively” handcuffing the child for “poking his classmate with a pencil”, according to the filing.
The school district was also accused of failing to prepare staff for working with disabled children, and so there was a “risk that students’ rights would be violated”.
The footage — released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado — shows the struggle with officers who say “you can do that all you want”, as the child tells them “stop you’re hurting me”.
Officers said the child resisted them, having refused to return to their patrol car with them. Although footage showed him sitting silently before they pulled him away though the school hallway.
The child was then “left handcuffed and banging his head for hours”, before being driven to a nearby juvenile centre, according to the court filing. Parents, who were also called to the school, were allegedly denied contact with their child during the arrest.
Officers charged the child with crimes including misdemeanour assault, harassment, and resisting arrest, as well as the second-degree felony assault of an officer.
A bond of $25,000 (£18,000) was then paid by his parents for his release, before charges were afterwards dropped, according to the Denver Post.
One of the lawyers for the child’s family, Jack Robinson, said on Tuesday that “students of colour and students with disabilities — are experiencing significant harm at the hands of SROs under the guise of school safety,”
Mr Robinson added that children “don’t need handcuffs or criminal charges — they need compassion, and an understanding of the needs of students with disabilities.” reported the Post.
One of the officers involved in the incident, Sidney Nicholson, “handcuffed a twelve-year-old child with disabilities after that child became escalated”, a couple of months after, according to the court filing.
It comes as Colorado lawmakers consider a bill that would prohibit the use of monetary bonds in cases involving juveniles.
A spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office told the Post that the department “is committed to protecting the entire community, especially the students and staff who attend our schools.”
“When we receive a call for service, especially one that involves a criminal allegation, we must respond,” the statement added, while alleging that an assault was reported by the school.
Douglas County School District have been approached for comment by the Independent.