Attorney: Student slammed to floor suffered concussion

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 05, 2017 5:10 PM
Attorney: Student slammed to floor suffered concussion

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A student who was slammed to the floor by a police officer in a North Carolina high school has suffered a concussion and may have other related health issues, her attorney said Thursday.

Jasmine Darwin is having headaches, vision problems and other issues associated with a concussion, attorney Freddy Rabner of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said. Darwin, who was a student at Rolesville High School, sought treatment at a hospital twice and has follow-up appointments with several specialists, he said.

"She's a little 100-pound girl who was whipped to the ground so hard, she's sore everywhere," Rabner said in a telephone interview. "She's a mess. She's in pain."

A brief video posted on Twitter showed a police officer lifting and dropping a girl on her left side, then pulling her to her feet and leading her away. The student who took the video, Ahunna Akpuda, has said Darwin was trying to break up a fight between Darwin's sister and another girl.

The video doesn't show what led up to or followed the episode. Akpuda said the officer arrived a few seconds after the girl tried to break up the fight.

"He drags her farther away from the actual fight after it was broken up," said Akpuda, who spoke with The Associated Press on the phone Wednesday, along with her mother. "That's when he proceeds to lift her up and slam her down to the ground."

The officer, identified by Rolesville officials as Ruben De Los Santos, is on paid administrative leave. Police Chief Bobby Langston said he has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to review the case.

Town officials have declined to answer additional questions, including whether they know if De Los Santos has an attorney. The Associated Press has been unable to reach the officer by phone or email.

The officer is Hispanic and Darwin is black, Mayor Frank Eagles said. The officer has been assigned to the school since it opened in 2013, Eagles said. About 2,200 students in grades nine through 12 attend the school.

The video prompted a coalition of advocates for young people to ask federal officials again to respond to a complaint they originally filed more than six years ago.

Groups including Legal Aid of North Carolina sent a letter dated Thursday to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, renewing concerns about the treatment of students in Wake County schools. The original complaint filed in September 2010 says Wake County schools discriminate racially when they mete out discipline.

"Discriminatory discipline practices have remained virtually unchanged over the past six years. That clearly demonstrates that the problem is systemic," Jennifer Story of Legal Aid of North Carolina said in a news release. The groups are "asking for ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance," the release says.

A Wake County schools spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to questions about the complaint.

Wake County schools don't have their own police force so the district contracts with local police to place school resource officers on campuses. The agreement allows officers to use force but it cannot be "excessive, arbitrary or malicious."

Officials with the National Association of School Resource Officers wouldn't comment on what happened at Rolesville High School. The association's recommendations include starting with the selection of school officers, who must have the right mindset to work with young people, said D.J. Schoeff, a school officer in Carmel, Indiana, and NASRO second-vice president.

"Although we are law enforcement, that is the last-resort function that we have," he said. Building relationships, deterring crime and acting as an informal counselor or mentor are primary duties, he said.

NASRO estimates that 14,000 to 20,000 officers work in schools in the United States, he said. About 1,000 officers worldwide trained with NASRO last year, he said.

___

Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc .