Another incident that highlights the troubling aspects of placing cops in schools has surfaced. The sheriff’s office’s (which supplies the deputies to the school) story has changed several times in the space of few days, but the end result is inarguable: a 17-year-old student is in a medically-induced coma as the result of its officer’s actions.
At one Texas high school, the use of a Taser by Randy McMillan, a sheriff’s deputy/school resource officer, on 17-year-old Noe Niño de Rivera has resulted in the student being put in a medically induced coma. The family has filed a lawsuit against McMillan, the school district, and the county, and alleges Rivera was tased after trying to break up a fight.
According to the court documents, the teen was walking backwards from school officers who were trying to break up a fight when he was tased, falling backwards and suffering a brain hemorrhage. The sheriff’s office maintains that the student acted aggressively and refused to back off when ordered to by officer Randy McMillan.
The narrative is cloudy, even when restricted to just the sheriff’s office’s statements. The original report of the incident on Nov. 20th said this:
A Bastrop County sheriff deputy assigned to Cedar Creek High School as a resource officer used a Taser on a 17-year-old student during a fight on Wednesday, according to officials.
The student and two other boys were involved in a fight in the hallway when the deputy used the stun gun on him, according to the Bastrop school district and Sissy Jones, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
The next day, the office’s statement added this:
A 17-year-old Cedar Creek High School student was acting aggressively before a Bastrop County sheriff’s deputy Tased the teen Wednesday, officials said Thursday.
Thus making the deployment of the Taser more justifiable. But it also added this:
Sissy Jones, a spokeswoman for the Bastrop County sheriff’s office, said that two deputies who work at the Bastrop school district as resource officers were trying to stop a fight Wednesday between two female students in the high school’s hallway when the 17-year-old male student approached.
The original report stated the tased student was involved in a fight with two other boys and the deputy. This new statement shows the student wasn’t even involved in the fight and had only “approached” the scene.
The student tried to interfere with the deputies and didn’t listen to their commands, Jones said. “He looked as though he was ready to fight.”
“Looked.” This still doesn’t explain the office’s statement that the student was “aggressive” or the implication that he posed a threat to the officers.
The family’s lawyer claims to have cell phone footage of the incident that contradicts the statements made by the officers.
“They’re completely lying, they’re completely lying because they’re very worried about this officer being indicted for a criminal charge, which he should be,” said attorney Adam Loewy, who is representing the family…
“Noe was being a good Samaritan, a good citizen, he broke up the fight. Then there was some stoppage to everything, and he was standing there. You see these police officers go up to him and tase him,” Loewy said.
Whatever this footage shows likely won’t make an appearance until the case goes to trial, but it would seem the school itself should have footage of the incident. According to its parent’s handbook, the school has cameras in use (p. 70).
For safety purposes, video and audio recording equipment is used to monitor student behavior, including on buses and in common areas on campus. Students will not be told when the equipment is being used.
A “high school hallway” would presumably be a “common area.” If there is footage, no one has made any mention of it. Even stranger, no one has even offered to review the recordings or even deny such footage exists.
The lawsuit would obviously limit the school from talking about the incident (as would the student’s age), but the school issued nearly no statements in the days preceding the filing, other than its original joint statement with the sheriff’s office (above) and this boilerplate isued on the day of the incident.
“The safety and security of all students is the number one priority at Cedar Creek High School and Bastrop ISD,” the district said in a statement. “When law enforcement officers intervene and take action, they do so based on their training and protocol, as they deem warranted.”
The sheriff’s office has gone on record as stating the student wasn’t involved in the fight, but yet somehow, the uninvolved student is the one who was tased and hospitalized for nothing more than appearing “aggressive.” Fights have occurred in schools as long as there have been schools, but only in recent years has it been assumed that only law enforcement officers are capable of handling combative students. When you use law enforcement officers to handle routine disciplinary problems, you greatly increase the odds of severe injuries. Officers have certain training and tools and applying them to situations that don’t require severe responses puts LEOs in the awkward place of either doing nothing or approaching students as though they were dangerous, hardened criminals.
If this school had no “resource officers,” it’s nearly guaranteed that this situation would have ended with nothing more than routine disciplinary action, rather than with a 17-year-old in a coma and the filing of a federal lawsuit.