Leaders question treatment of student in cell phone incident - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Leaders question treatment of student in cell phone incident

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Two prominent Mid-South leaders are questioning whether proper training to deal with children is included in the high cost of security at Memphis City Schools.

The questions started after a Whitehaven High School student recently said he was beaten by a school security guard over a cell phone.  The guard wanted it, and the student wouldn't turn it over.

Now the student and his mom are speaking anonymously out of fear of retaliation.

"He said the officer grabbed him by his arm and started putting pressure on his arm," the student's mother said. "He said then he took arm and put it behind his back and kind of put him in a choke hold and brought him to the ground."

Then she described what happened next.

"He said on the way to the office, the security officer was yelling obscenities of all sorts at him, and punched him in the jaw, which resulted in his mouth having cuts on the inside," she said. "His chin was bruised right here, because the officer picked him up by the back of his pants and dropped him on the concrete floor."

The boy's mother admits there is plenty of blame to go around. The student could have handed over the cell phone when the security guard asked for it.

"He was wrong for it, and I admit to that," she said. "But for him to have to come home with marks on his body as a result of a struggle for a cell phone, that's just crazy to me."

It's also crazy to Reverends Dwight Montgomery and William Owens.

Owens is Vice President of Education for All, while Montgomery is the President of the Memphis Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"A cell phone could not injure an individual, but because of a cell phone, a child has been injured," Montgomery said.     

Montgomery and Owens were the first to support MCS Superintendent Kriner Cash's proposal for a school PEACE force.

"We can turn lives around if we approach them from a position of caring and love," Owens said on February 16th.

Now, Owens is concerned Dr. Cash's security officers are not taking that position.

"What's the difference in the peace force and the police force?" he asks.

Owens and Montgomery are concerned, particularly about MCS Security Director Carolyn Jackson, and what they say was her refusal to interview witnesses of the altercation.

"She indicated that children stick together (and) they would not be interviewed," Montgomery said.

Action News 5 asked Jackson for a response.

JACKSON: No, I did not say that.
LORI BROWN: You didn't say that.
LORI BROWN: What did you say when they asked you about children being used as witnesses?
JACKSON: That the case is pending.  Once it's been resolved, then we will talk with the students.

Montgomery says MCS Security Chief Gerald Darling later assured him that the school system does use child witnesses.

"She should have known," Owens said. "She didn't know. Something is wrong with the picture."

Owens and Montgomery want to know that school security officers are trained to deal with children specifically  Jackson says they are, by both a law enforcement academy and experts at MCS.

"Every year we get with them," Jackson said, "and they design training for our officers to go through and they do hands on training, role playing and, 'What would you do if a child did this? What would you do if a child did that?'"

As for what an officer allegedly did when a student wouldn't hand over his cell phone...

" I can't talk about it because it's pending in Juvenile Court," Jackson said.

Jackson said the security guard accused of leaving marks on the student is still on duty.

"We stood with the Superintendent believing that security officers would in fact treat children properly," Montgomery said. "We demand that they do that!"

The student was charged with disorderly conduct, and is awaiting a court date.  This is his first contact with Juvenile Court.

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