The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is deeply concerned about an incident yesterday at Lincoln High School, in which a school police officer tased a student who is now facing charges in juvenile court and San Diego police officers pepper sprayed a number of other students who protested.
There are conflicting reports about what triggered the incident. Both students and teachers have said the school police officer, who may have a history of complaints against him, unnecessarily escalated the situation by singling out and assaulting the student. Other accounts may differ.
The fact is, at this moment, the public does not know what happened and should not rush to judgment.
No matter what happened, though, a school campus has again become the scene of a large police action. The anger and frustration of students at police action on campus does not arise in a vacuum. This incident emerges from the context of over-policing in schools and communities of color.
That context requires an open, fair, and transparent investigation into numerous issues beyond the precise facts of what happened at Lincoln yesterday:
- What is the proper role, if any, of school police officers? This incident raises the question whether a permanent law enforcement presence on campus creates more problems than it solves, especially by exacerbating the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Students need education, not incarceration.
- What complaints have been made against the school police officer, and what has been the school district’s response? If the officer has been the subject of past complaints, the lack of transparency and accountability make it impossible for students to feel safe at school.
- Does this case belong in the court system? We understand the student who was tased has no history of discipline or trouble with the law. Even if there is a legally justifiable basis for prosecution, the school district, police department, and district attorney’s office should consider alternative options.
- We ask the SDUSD to release the surveillance camera footage to the public, and make a commitment to work with students, parents and community leaders to strengthen trust and collaboration amongst all individuals affected by this tragic incident.
We are committed to working with the San Diego Unified School District, local law enforcement, elected officials, and the community to do everything possible to; ensure that these types of incidents are proactively prevented, that our public schools are safe educational environments where resources are invested in restorative justice and ensuring students receive equal access to quality education and are allowed to develop their full human potential.
The ACLU of San Diego will continue to investigate the incident and is seeking reports and videos from anyone who witnessed or suffered law enforcement action during the incident. If you have any knowledge of what happened yesterday, please contact us here or by calling 619.232.2121.