School resource officers -- police officers who are stationed in schools -- are increasingly under scrutiny for their harsh practices.
There have been a number of recent, high-profile examples of SRO misbehavior, starting with an October incident at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina -- in which an officer threw and dragged a student across the floor. In March, a school police officer was placed on leave after a video showed him repeatedly slapping a student. In April, a Texas school resource officer was fired after getting caught on camera body-slamming a 12-year-old.
Now, a group of Texas parents are hoping to receive justice for another school resource officer's alleged violence.
In late April, the parents of three children filed a lawsuit against the Abilene School District in Texas, as well as against an individual school resource officer named Barry Bond. The lawsuit details three incidents in which the school resource officer allegedly physically assaulted three children, ages 6, 12 and 15. The lawsuit says the officer violated the children's rights by using excessive and unreasonable force and unjustified seizures.
In the first case, the officer allegedly grabbed a 6-year-old -- who was in kindergarten and weighed about 45 pounds -- and twisted the child's arms behind his back. The officer then lifted the child off the ground "by grabbing his arms, which were still twisted behind his back, and carried him into the classroom," says the lawsuit. The child had been resisting going into the classroom and separating from his mother. The maneuver used by the officer "is a 'pain compliance' technique that peace officers are trained to use to force dangerous, physically resisting adults into submission," says the lawsuit. Once in the classroom, the officer slammed the child's face onto a desk, causing his head to bleed.
In the second case, the officer allegedly used a chokehold to restrain a 12-year-old student. The student had been walking in the hallway and looking for the school's assistant principal after a teacher made a comment that upset him. The chokehold caused the student to lose consciousness. The officer was suspended from his job for three days a result of the incident, but soon returned to school.
In the third case, the lawsuit says the officer body-slammed a 15-year-old after the student tried to walk out of the school. The student had been upset when a teacher yelled at him. The officer also slammed the student's face into a concrete wall. The student was left with cuts on his face, swollen wrists, a limp and a scar that is still visible.
All victims suffered from physical and emotional trauma after the incidents. The plaintiffs are blaming the school district and the city's police department for not training Bond on how to work with children and not removing him from his post after learning of the questionable conduct.
Indeed, many of the tens of thousands resource officers stationed in schools do not receive additional training on how to work with children. Instead, they may apply the same protocols to students as they use when dealing with adults.
The district did not respond to requests for comment. A representative for the city said they could not comment on an open case. The officer in the case has since retired from the district, says the lawsuit.
In 2015, the Texas legislature passed a law that requires school police officers to undergo special training, but this law only applies to school districts of a certain size -- and Abilene is not large enough to be one of them. The Department of Justice recommends that officers get training “to recognize and respond appropriately to youth behavior that may be a manifestation of disability.”
Each of the child plaintiffs "had very serious emotional harm and psychological anguish cause by these incidents, in addition to physical harm," Ranjana Natarajan, a lawyer that represents the plaintiffs, told The Huffington Post. "Like most children, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit wanted to go to school and learn."
Natarajan said she hopes the suit serves as "a wakeup call for the district and police department in Abilene and we hope they use it as an opportunity to rethink their school resource officer program and how it works."
Rebecca Klein covers the challenges faced in school discipline, school segregation and the achievement gap in K-12 education. In particular, she is drilling down into the programs and innovations that are trying to solve these problems. Tips? Email Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.