The video doesn’t allow for much interpretation. Taken in March 2015 at Woodland Hills High, the Pittsburgh school Antwon Rose Jr. attended, the footage shows a school police officer walking up to a black male student who had been sitting down, his hands fixed on his lap, a notebook under one hand, his entire posture placid.
The white officer yanks the student up to his feet and draws his arm around him, placing him in a choke hold. He drags the 15-year-old student down the hallway, throwing him around, before body-slamming the student onto the ground and tasing him three times.
Despite what the video shows, the black student, identified only as “A.W.,” was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The white officer wasn’t penalized at all.
The incident is just one among several disturbing allegations centered on brutal policing tactics at Woodland Hills High School. Aa HuffPost reports, the allegations were so troubling—and enough of a pattern had been established—that alumni and members of the community planned a protest at the school the night of June 20.
Then a Woodland Hills High School student, Antwon, was killed by East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld. The 17-year-old had run away from Rosfeld after a car in which he was a passenger was pulled over.
Some people online, and Rosfeld’s attorney, have been critical of Antwon’s reaction—why would the teen, who wasn’t armed, run away from Rosfeld? As a Woodland Hills alumna, Summer Lee, told HuffPost: “When you think about where Antwon went to school, he saw his friends getting beat up by these cops and how the justice system works against their abusers. Would that not inform your interaction with police officers?”
The allegations of police brutality are part of a 2017 lawsuit against Woodland Hills that is currently in litigation. In the suit, five black current and former Woodland Hills students say that officers physically and verbally abused them.
Many of the allegations center on the same cop, Officer Stephen Shaulis, the one seen on video body-slamming and tasing a black student. In the suit, Shaulis is accused of intentionally tripping a student and “repeatedly slamming a 90-pound female student’s head against a table,” according to HuffPost.
In 2017, the same officer knocked out a tooth of a 14-year-old student, Q.W., according to the lawsuit and news reports at the time. A video of the incident showed the pair chatting. But after Q.W. left the conversation, the officer grabbed the teen by the neck and slammed him to the ground. After the video cut off, the child was repeatedly punched in the face, according to the lawsuit. Q.W. was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest.
Shaulis is no longer at the school, TribLIVE reports.
District Superintendent Alan Johnson claimed at the time the suit was filed that the incidents were isolated and not part of a larger systemic problem.
“It is not an abusive school,” he told TribLIVE. “We are proud of the things we do.”
But others say the school’s culture of brutality toward black students explains, at least partially, why Antwon fled. And why the fight against violence in schools, for communities of color, involves thinking critically about the way that police officers stationed at schools are utilized.
“I think it’s a culture of tolerance of this kind of behavior,” Braddock, Pa., Mayor John Fetterman told HuffPost. Fetterman has a stake in the issue because Braddock kids attend Woodland Hills.
He added, “When you have incontrovertible video evidence and people are still willing to carry water for these individuals, it’s appalling.”