Louisiana deputies placed 10-year-old with disabilities in a chokehold, lawsuit alleges
A child diagnosed with ADD and ODD was handcuffed and detained by police, his parents say
A new lawsuit was filed in the case of a 10-year-old disabled boy who was allegedly put in a chokehold when a Louisiana deputy responded to his school on May 13, 2021.
The boy’s parents, Ashley Hutchinson-Harper and Terry Harper, say that their son’s civil rights were violated—specifically that the responding deputy failed to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, per a report from NBC News.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and Jefferson Parish School Board were both named as defendants in the suit, which was filed on Monday in federal court.
According to the report, sheriff’s deputies were called to Concetta Trippe Janet Elementary School in Marrero because the fifth-grader, after being bullied in class, hit his principal, threw a trash can through a window, and was crying and wandering around the school campus. The boy, who is only identified by his initials in the lawsuit, has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
Per Mayo Clinic, ODD is earmarked in children by irritability, defiance, and vindictiveness toward authority figures. The boy was on an individualized education plan (IEP) which is a legal document created by parents, teachers and school administrators to detail the educational plan of a special needs child.
Despite his disabilities, the 10-year-old was confronted by four deputies who were told by school officials that he was on medication, per the lawsuit. One deputy, Sgt. Steven Trapani, allegedly grabbed the boy, put him in a chokehold, and pulled him to the ground. At the time, the child was 4-feet-5 inches and weighed 95 pounds. The lawsuit alleges that the situation made him “fearful for his life.”
The family is represented by the ACLU of Louisiana and the Tulane Law School’s Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic. In their statement, the ACLU wrote that the boy’s disabilities made him a target for bullying and he regularly ate his lunch in the administrative offices to limit his contact with other students.
After he was handcuffed, J.H (as he is identified in the lawsuit) was allegedly taken to a room at the school, interrogated for 90 minutes, and sat on, all while his hands were cuffed behind his back, per Nola. When his parents arrived, the lawsuit says, they were not permitted to see him, and he was held for four hours at the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Assessment Center.
The child was charged with two counts of battery of a police officer, one count of resisting arrest, one count of battery of a schoolteacher, and one count of simple criminal damage of less than $1,000, NBC News reported. The charges were later dismissed.
The family is seeking unspecified damages and a permanent ban on the excessive use of physical restraints and handcuffing of students with disabilities.
TheGrio reached out to both the school district and the sheriff’s office for a response. “Jefferson Parish Schools does not comment on pending litigation,” the school district said, while the sheriff’s office had “no comment” on the incident.
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