The cellphone video of a Rolesville, N.C., police officer body-slamming a female high school student to the floor may lead to changes in the way law enforcement operates in the Wake County school system.
School administrators are reviewing the district’s agreement with local law-enforcement agencies on school resource officers, and the News & Observer reports that the agreement, which is set to expire in June, says that use of force by officers must be reasonable, and not excessive, arbitrary or malicious.
Lisa Luten, Wake County schools spokeswoman, told the News & Observer on Wednesday, “We’re looking at the memorandum of understanding in terms of the context of the incident and seeing if any actions need to be taken.”
As previously reported on The Root, an 8-second video uploaded to Twitter by a Rolesville High School student shows a group of fellow students at the high school crowded together after a fight when a police officer grabs a girl and slams her to the floor. After throwing her to the floor, the officer picks her up and leads her off with her hands behind her back.
The officer, now identified as Ruben De Los Santos, has been placed on administrative leave by the Rolesville Police Department until the investigation into the incident is complete.
The student he assaulted has been identified as Jasmine Darwin. Jasmine has a concussion and was in and out of consciousness after the incident, Freddy Rabner, her family attorney, told the News & Observer. Rabner said that Jasmine had been attempting to break up a fight between two other girls when she was “slammed on the ground like a rag doll.”
Rabner told the News & Observer that Jasmine has been to the hospital twice and has follow-up appointments with her primary-care physician as well as both a neurological specialist and a concussion specialist.
“She is in a great deal of pain,” Rabner said Wednesday. “The pain is worse today. She is a mess today.”
This latest controversy comes three years after local activists filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging that school resource officers in Wake County use excessive force and treat minority students unfairly.
The current agreement between the school system and law-enforcement agencies says that school administrators have the primary responsibility of maintaining order in schools and responding to disciplinary matters, but school resource officers may intervene to ensure the immediate safety of people in the school “in light of an actual or imminent threat to health or safety.”
According to the News & Observer, under an agreement approved in 2014, officers are supposed to receive training in areas such as working with students with disabilities and special needs, cultural competency and nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline.
Rolesville Police Chief Bobby Langston has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident. De Los Santos was wearing a body camera, but police have cited the ongoing investigation as a reason for not releasing the footage taken by the camera.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison has asked that people not make snap judgments based on the short video clip.
“Please don’t make judgments until people see what really happened,” Harrison said. “They turned it over to the SBI to investigate. I’ve got all the confidence in the world that the SBI will make the right decision.”
Pam Akpuda, whose daughter shot and uploaded the original video, said she wants to talk to Rolesville High School Principal Dhedra Lassiter about the incident.
“At the end of the day, we send these kids to school to learn,” Akpuda said. “When stuff like this is going on, that detracts from the learning process.”
Read more at the News & Observer.