Family Traumatized After Autistic 11-Year-Old Arrested and Jailed for Scratching Another Student

A family says they and their son are traumatized after the 11-year-old boy was arrested, left in the back of a police car, and jailed. They’ve filed a lawsuit over the issue.

The boy, who is identified by the initials A.V., apparently scratched another student with a pencil while in class at Sagewood Middle School. This, of course, would naturally warrant some sort of punishment or corrective measure, but the adults involved may have gone too far in trying to remedy the situation.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Racle Fotodesign

First, the boy was taken to talk to a school counselor. Then Douglas County school resource officers were called in. A.V. was grabbed by the back of the neck, picked up by his arms, put in handcuffs, and placed in the back of a police car. The boy was left there for two hours before being transferred to a juvenile jail.

While in the police vehicle, A.V. banged his head violently on the plexiglass, something his parents say is not common behavior for him and is likely a sign that he was in severe distress.

Photo: Adobe Stock/ChiccoDodiFC

“When we saw him, his forehead and arms were so swollen and bruised,” his mother, Michelle Hanson, says. “A.V. doesn’t headbang. He must have been extremely dysregulated. After we bailed him out, he wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t speak. A.V. was — is — definitely traumatized. We all are.”

School resource officers say the boy was arrested on suspicion of assault, harassment, and resisting arrest. Those charges were later dropped, but A.V.’s family had to post a $25,000 bond to get him out of jail.

The family has now filed a lawsuit stating that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Douglas County School District failed to properly train the school resource officers on ways to work with children with disabilities.

Photo: Adobe Stock/paulo Jorge cruz

“Across the U.S. and here in Colorado, students — particularly students of color and students with disabilities — are experiencing significant harm at the hands of SROs under the guise of school safety,” says Jack Robinson, one of the lawyers representing the child’s family. “These experiences of excessive force and implicit bias are causing students and families trauma, often for years to come, and reinforcing the school-to-prison pipeline. Children like A.V. don’t need handcuffs or criminal charges — they need compassion, and an understanding of the needs of students with disabilities.”

The lawsuit claims that the other child first drew on A.V. with a marker, prompting him to act out. The school’s principal then asked him to step outside, which he did. He spoke to the school psychologist and had time to calm down while listening to music. However, when the school resource officers arrived, everything went wrong.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Alexander Raths

The officers asked the boy to come with them, but he refused. They then grabbed him by the arms, forced him against the desk, and put him in handcuffs.

After the incident, A.V.’s mother says he didn’t want to go back to school and had to be transferred to a different one. He also visibly shakes whenever he sees a law enforcement officer.

“He was never scared of going to school before this,” Michelle says. “He never had attendance problems before this.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/esthermm

The Douglas County School District has not yet commented on the incident and likely will not comment as long as it’s under investigation. They did, however, issue this statement:

“The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is committed to protecting the entire community, especially the students and staff who attend our schools. When we receive a call for service, especially one that involves a criminal allegation, we must respond. In this particular incident, it was reported that a student had stabbed another student with a pair of scissors. It was also reported that a staff member had been assaulted.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/kayasit

These allegations come just as Colorado is considering a bill which would prohibit the use of monetary bond in juvenile cases, although a judge could still hold a child without bond if he or she were a flight or safety risk. A.V.’s family was lucky that they were able to post bail, but not all families in this situation can do that.

We hope this issue can be rectified in the future so that other children and their families will not have to go through such traumatic incidents.

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