A student who was arrested and beaten for falling asleep at school is now suing an Alabama city, its police department and some school employees for civil rights violation, battery and negligent supervision and hiring. The Courthouse News Service reports that after the diabetic student fell asleep while in a room reserved for “in school suspensions,” a school police officer slammed her face into a cabinet and then arrested her. The incident occurred at a high school in Hoover, Alabama.
Ashlynn Avery, who has diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, was suspended for cutting class, and had to sit in the in-school suspension room. While she was reading “Huckleberry Finn,” she dozed off. First, the in-school suspension supervisor walked over to her cubicle and struck it, which caused the cubicle to hit Avery’s head, according to the lawsuit. She woke up, but soon fell back asleep. The supervisor, Joshua Whited, then took the book from her and slammed it on on, which caused the book to hit the student in the chest.
Avery was then told to leave the room, according to the complaint, and police officer Christopher Bryant followed her. Bryant slapped her backpack, and then “proceeded to shove Ashlynn face first into a file cabinet and handcuff her,” the complaint states. While in the car, Avery vomited. She was taken to a hospital and had to wear a cast as a result of her injuries.
“Ashlynn required follow-up care to her shoulder, arm, and wrist, Ashlynn also required extended mental counseling for trauma caused by the defendants,” the lawsuit states. The Averys are seeking "compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights violations, battery and negligent supervision and hiring," the Courthouse News Service reports.
The case is another example of abuses committed by school police officers. Activists have long decried the “school to prison pipeline” which disproportionately affects communities of color. A PBS factsheet, as the Courthouse News Service notes, states that “70 percent of students involved in 'in-school' arrests or referred to law enforcement are black or Latino.”
“When police (or ‘school resource officers’ as these sheriff’s deputies are often known) spend time in a school, they often deal with disorder like proper cops -- by slapping cuffs on the little perps and dragging them to the precinct,” wrote Chase Madar for TomDispatch in the wake of the Newtown massacre. The school shooting in Connecticut has sparked more calls--from both Democrats and the National Rifle Association--for more police officers in schools.