Last week, The Root reported that a Black high school student was body-slammed and knocked unconscious by a school resource officer at Liberty High School in Kissimmee, Fla. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department said the officer was trying to stop a fight between her and another student, but video footage of the incident recorded by another student has since gone viral and has understandably raised questions about police use of force, the necessity of police officers on school grounds and, of course, racism. Those concerns are likely to be compounded now that the girl’s family is speaking out saying that she was “traumatized” by the incident and that she’s suffered serious injuries.
ABC News reports that 16-year-old Taylor Bracey suffered a concussion and is now experiencing headaches, blurred vision, memory loss, and sleep deprivation due to the head injury she sustained during the altercation, according to her mother Jamesha Bracey.
“She’s depressed, I’m depressed. We all are traumatized about what happened,” Bracey said at a news briefing outside the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Saturday. “I think, if this was a white girl, would this have happened to the white child?” Bracey also said her daughter told her that the altercation started because there were “some girls [who] wanted to jump her after school.”
The officer involved in the incident, Deputy Ethan Fournier, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation that is being conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement “to make sure that this is completely independent of our agency,” according to Sheriff Marcos Lopez.
Lopez said that Fournier took Taylor down because she “was not complying with lawful commands.”
Listen: I’ve been trying really hard not to go overboard in injecting my personal opinion into this story as I was not there, so let me just offer some insight as to why a lot of people aren’t going to buy the idea that Fournier’s actions were necessary.
First, school fights happen every day, B. We can agree that students can’t just be allowed to fight each other because someone could be seriously injured, but then we’re back to the fact that, in this instance, the only one who appears to have seriously injured anyone is the cop. Second, my experience with police says that cops often let their egos cause them to react excessively when their authority is challenged by someone who is not immediately “complying with lawful commands”—especially when that person is Black. (Sandra Bland, anyone?) But let’s say that isn’t the case for Fournier and his use of force was somehow completely appropriate—there’s still the question of whether Fournier rendered aid once it was clear (or should have been clear) that he had knocked Taylor unconscious.
Lopez said that Tracey received medical attention at the scene, but civil attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said that Fournier did not attempt to render aid himself. In fact, in video footage of the incident, Fournier is seen pulling Taylor’s arms back and handcuffing her as she lay motionless after her head hit the ground—which one would think Fournier would have heard as the impact was clearly audible in the video.
“He’s supposed to be trained,” Crump said, ABC reports. “It’s foreseeable that children may get in altercations at school. You’re not supposed to knock them unconscious. You’re supposed to be the person who knows how to de-escalate the situation. It’s just mind-boggling.”
“This is the adultification of Black children—that our children are seen as adults,” he continued. “No, no, this was a child.”
Besides being a sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer, Fournier was reportedly the girls’ flag football coach at Liberty High, but will not be coaching the team until the investigation is concluded, according to the Osceola County School District. A spokesperson for the district, Dana Schafer, told ABC that school resource officers are not school district employees, but are appointed by the police department.
“It has been a difficult week for Liberty High students and staff,” Schafer said. “The entire staff and administration of Liberty High School remain committed to ensuring that we have a safe and positive learning environment for all students.”