Three Chicago police officers caught on video tasing a 16-year-old female student and punching her at a school in the city’s West Side will not be returning to campus until an investigation is completed, a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson announced.
The disturbing video, taken at Marshall High School, shows three officers taking down Dnigma Howard, a black student, by repeatedly using a stun gun on her and striking her with a closed fist. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Cook County prosecutors say police had been called to the school last Tuesday to remove Dnigma from the campus after she’d been involved in an earlier altercation.
But the intensity of the officers’ reaction to the young girl drew widespread condemnation online from educators, parents, and social justice advocates alike, raising old questions about what—if any—role police should play on K-12 campuses.
Dnigma’s father, Laurentio Howard, who was at the school and witnessed his daughter being tased, said the incident shows why Chicago police shouldn’t be in schools.
“My first instinct was to protect her,” Howard told the Sun-Times. “But they told me to step back, so I could only watch. I told them they didn’t need to do that.”
Howard also pointed out that his daughter is on an Individualized Education Program, a specialized education plan for eligible students.
“They’re supposed to allow her to talk to her counselor when she asks, but when she asked, they told her he was in a meeting and she couldn’t talk to him,” Howard told the Sun-Times. “Maybe she didn’t know, but the school should have made that known.”
Dnigma’s account of what happened differs substantially from what police told Cook County prosecutors. According to the officers, they were called to the school Tuesday morning after Dnigma was suspended for another altercation and refused to leave school grounds. Prosecutors say the teenager kicked, bit, and spit on the officers and that her attempts to fight them off caused them to fall down a flight of stairs. Dnigma and the arresting officers were taken to two different hospitals following the confrontation to be treated for their injuries.
But Dnigma told the Sun-Times that she wasn’t asked to leave the building before officers grabbed her. And while she admitted biting a female officer’s hand (the same officer, she says, who struck her several times), Dnigma says she and an officer only fell after she was pushed by one of the cops; she grabbed the officer’s vest as she was falling down.
As for the use of the taser, the Sun-Times reports Chicago Public Schools have “no specific policy on the use of stun guns” on students:
A general guideline on Taser use recommends de-escalation by the officer, but allows officers to use a stun gun against “an active resistor or assailant, and only for the purpose of gaining control of and restraining the subject.”
This raises a painfully obvious question: How could a stun gun be necessary to subdue a 16-year-old girl when three officers were already involved?
CPS says they’re looking into it, but as of right now, it’s unclear if and how the officers have been disciplined.
“CPS strives to create safe and supportive learning environments for all students, and this disturbing incident has absolutely no place in our schools,” district spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement. “To ensure a thorough review of this situation is conducted, we are asking the district’s Office of the Inspector General to review the matter and we will fully support the ongoing investigation by the City’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability.”
Dnigma, on the other hand, now faces two felony counts of aggravated battery stemming from the police confrontation. At a hearing last Friday, she was also placed on electronic monitoring and a Cook County Juvenile Court judge banned her from the Marshall High School campus.
Judge Linda Pauel declined to put Dnigma in juvenile detention, citing her lack of a criminal record.