Mother files lawsuit after 7-year-old son with autism handcuffed for almost 40 minutes
A North Carolina mother has filed a lawsuit against her 7-year-old son’s school after a resource officer handcuffed the child for nearly 40 minutes.
Body camera footage of the incident, which took place on Sept. 11, 2018, was recently released by a local court, according to local news media, detailing the encounter.
The child, who is not identified due to him being a minor, had reportedly been spitting on people, according to the footage. However, court documents stated that the child had spit on the floor as the resource officer, identified as Michael Fattaleh, passed by the “quiet room,” inside which the boy was being held to help him calm down.
The footage shows school staff restraining the boy, who has autism, before Fattaleh, comes over to put the child in handcuffs.
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No one who was caring for the boy at the time had asked for Fattaleh’s intervention, according to court documents. However, Fattaleh claimed to have seen the boy spitting on the floor, which prompted him to enter the room and restrain the child.
After a few minutes, Fattaleh is seen on bodycam footage bringing the boy a pillow to rest his head after removing his glasses while the child lies on the floor.
The boy, who remains mostly silent throughout the video, is then asked by Fattaleh if he’s ever been charged with a crime before.
After the child responds that he has not, Fattaleh is heard saying, “Okay, well you’re fixing to.”
As the child lies on the floor, Fattaleh continues to speak to the boy, “If you, my friend, are not acquainted with the juvenile justice system, you will be very shortly.”
Other school staff members warn the boy that if he continues to struggle, he will have to stay restrained, according to the footage.
As the boy seems to be struggling and adjusting himself, Fattaleh is heard saying, “You ever heard of the term babysitter? I take that term literally, my friend.”
At one point during the incident that is not shown in the released footage, court documents detail that Fattaleh “violently torqued” the child’s body to one side, causing the child to yell out in pain: “Ow! My knee! My knee! It really hurts!” Instead of readjusting the boy, Fattaleh allegedly said, “Yeah, it sucks, doesn’t it?”
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Towards the end of the bodycam footage, a woman who appears to to be the boy’s mother is seen asking officers why a “special needs kids” is being charged with a count of assault to which Fattaleh does not fully answer, but responds, saying, “Honestly, because when you spit on people ... I’m not trying to be rude, come on, you know I’m rooting for him.”
Court documents revealed that on the day prior to the incident, the boy was given new medication that could impact his behavior at school the next day. The child’s mother notified his teachers and staff ahead of time.
“As a result of the trauma of being handcuffed and mistreated by Officer Fattaleh,” court documents state, the boy “suffered not only physical injuries to his body, but also post-traumatic stress disorder on top of his existing autism, mental illnesses, and behavioral issues.”
“It is outrageous that a school resource officer would feel that it is appropriate to handcuff, pin down, taunt and threaten a seven-year-old child, much less one with known autism, for nearly 40 minutes,” said Alex Heroy, an attorney representing the boy’s mother. "The officer removed the child from the hands of behavioral health teachers, who then stood by and did nothing as immense harm was inflicted by the officer. This is another tragic example of not just the desperate need for police reform, but also growth in the behavioral health field."
Stroryful contributed to this report.