Civil rights attorney hired by family of body-slammed teen
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has been retained by the family of a Florida high school student who was body-slammed by a school resource officer and appeared to lose consciousness after her head hit the concrete in videos taken by other students.
Crump tweeted Thursday that he and Orlando attorney Natalie Jackson are representing the 16-year-old Black student at Liberty High School in Kissimmee, south of Orlando.
Crump has previously represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake.
“It is unconscionable what happened to this young girl at the hands of someone whose primary duty is to serve and protect our children,” Crump said in a statement. “Students, especially minorities, have a difficult enough time feeling safe in our schools. Do we really need to add school resource officer to the list of fears they deal with on a daily basis?”
In a video from Tuesday posted to social media, the deputy body-slams the student, whose head hits a concrete walkway with an audible thud. The deputy then pulls the student’s hands behind her back and places her in handcuffs. Other students watching what happened in the school’s outdoor breezeway cry out in shock.
At a news conference Wednesday, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez said neither the student nor the sheriff had any serious injuries and were “fine.” The investigation into what happened was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The sheriff said the deputy, identified as Deputy Ethan Fournier, had been trying to stop the student from fighting another student, and the student refused to comply with the deputy’s commands.
Fournier, who has worked for the sheriff’s office for a decade, has been put on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
A statement from a coalition of national and local teachers unions also criticized what happened at the high school. The coalition included the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Florida Education Association and the Osceola County Education Association.
“While we are still gathering information, from watching this video, one thing is already clear: There is no excuse for what happened to this young woman,” the statement said. “Body slamming her is despicable, and regardless of what transpired beforehand, this is excessive force and the officer must be held accountable. It’s difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that implicit and explicit biases played a role in this tragic altercation.”