The Office of the County Attorney for Montgomery County reached a settlement with the parent of a 5-year-old student who was confronted by county police officers for leaving school, according to WTOP. The parent claimed in their lawsuit that the officers were verbally abusive and falsely arrested the boy.
Black children in America are already exposed to racism and injustice at a young age through television and social media. Now, they also experience it first-hand. In 2020, the 5-year-old son of Shanta Grant had walked out of East Silver Spring Elementary. Per her lawsuit, no one even saw him leave. Officers responded to a call from the school that a student had left school grounds with “no wish to return.”
Per the body camera footage, an officer yelled at the boy repeatedly while he sobbed, and he was put in the back of a police car and handcuffed.
Read more on the incident from WTOP:
“If the allegations are true, this is reprehensible behavior,” said Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando in an interview with WTOP.
In particular, Bethesda Beat said the lawsuit states that the police approached the boy in an angry manner, and that once back at the school, one of the officers screamed multiple times in his face with “the seeming purpose of terrorizing an already traumatized and upset child.”
An officer is also accused of telling the boy, “this is why people need to beat their kids” and “I hope your mama let me beat you.”
“Why was personal information given out? Why wasn’t the situation de-escalated by school staff?,” [Jawando] also asked. “But of course, why are these officers treating him that way; in a way that nobody should be treated, let alone at any age, but certainly not a five-year-old boy? … It’s very troubling to hear.”
The settlement will pay $275,000 to Shanta Grant: $220,000 of it being paid on behalf of Officers Dionne Holiday and Kevin Christmon and $55,000 paid on behalf of the Board of Education, per Fox 5 DC.
Certainly, if cops aren’t trained to deescalate situations outside of crime (i.e mental crises), it’s doubtful they know how to handle children. After watching the body camera footage, the officer had already profiled the boy as a sort of juvenile delinquent before approaching him. Just last year a little girl was pepper sprayed in the face for having a mental breakdown.
County Executive Marc Elrich said the situation calls for additional training. “This incident has been thoroughly reviewed, including as part of the external audit conducted by Effective Law Enforcement for All (ELE4A), and has led to changes in officer training, incident reporting processes, and clarification of how officers should interact with students in our schools,” he said in a statement.
We’ll see if this training sticks.