The American Civil Liberties Union says in a lawsuit filed Thursday that a 10-year-old boy suffered a concussion when a D.C. police officer slammed the boy’s head onto a cafeteria table while at the child’s elementary school.
The civil lawsuit, filed by the boy’s mother through the ACLU, accuses Metropolitan Police Department Officer David Bailey of assault, battery and excessive use of force during the April 2012 interaction at Wilkinson Elementary School in Southeast.
Although he was not a school resource officer assigned to the now-shuttered school, Officer Bailey was supervising and lecturing several students who were sent to the school’s cafeteria for discipline. The boy, identified as “T.P.,” was discussing a book he was reading with another classmate when Officer Bailey approached him and told him to “Stop playing with me,” according to the lawsuit. The boy responded that he was “not playing” and the officer “grabbed T.P. by the back of his head and slammed T.P.’s head forward into the table” at which he was seated. Officer Bailey then grabbed the boy by the shirt, lifted him out of his chair and threatened to take him to the 7th District police station.
The boy, who at the time was less than 5 feet tall and weighed 80 pounds, had been sent to the cafeteria for discipline because he wasn’t participating adequately in his music class, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court.
Shortly after the incident, the boy complained to a teacher, who said she could not do anything because Officer Bailey was a police officer, the lawsuit states. After school, T.P. told his mother, Chante Price, about the incident and reported that he had a headache and felt sleepy. Ms. Price took her son to United Medical Center, where he was treated for a mild concussion.
“This kind of force should never be used by a police officer against an unresisting child,” said the D.C. ACLU’s legal director, Arthur Spitzer. “The fact that this took place in the boy's school makes Officer Bailey’s actions even more outrageous.”
A complaint about the incident was filed with the Office of Police Complaints, which is still investigating. Officials from the agency declined to comment.
The case also was forwarded to the U.S. attorney’s office, which declined to bring criminal charges against the officer.
“The U.S. attorney’s office did not file criminal charges because of insufficient evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt,” spokesman William Miller said.
In a statement, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she couldn’t comment on the case and made note of the fact prosecutors declined to bring any criminal charges.
“While I can’t comment on this specific case, I will say that police officers should be afforded due process just like anyone else, before judgment is passed,” Chief Lanier said.
The lawsuit alleges that T.P. has suffered in school and no longer has the same desire to attend classes. It seeks unspecified damages.