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Court Says School Resource Officers Can't Arrest Students Just to 'Prove a Point'

A California cop arrested some victims of bullying because they were unresponsive during mediation.

|||Phakorn Kasikij/Dreamstime.comPhakorn Kasikij/Dreamstime.comA school resource officer in California arrested several middle school girls for being unresponsive while he investigated a bullying case. One of the girls was a bully. Three were her victims.

The case of David Scott v. County of San Bernardino began with an incident between seventh-grade girls at the Etiwanda Intermediate Middle School in Rancho Cucamonga. A teen bully hit another middle schooler, who reportedly did not fight back. The school suspended both the bully and her victim. (Assistant Principal Balbina Kendall informed the parents that it was "school policy to suspend any student involved in a fight, regardless of who was at fault.") After the bully punched another girl, the two victims and a third middle schooler went to the school office to tell administrators about the bully's continued threats.

The school asked Sheriff's Deputy Luis Ortiz, the resource officer assigned to the campus, to provide mediation for the incident. The school placed everyone involved in the same room but failed to separate or identify the victims and the aggressor. Ortiz initially intended to verify the facts in the case, but soon he was accusing the girls of being disrespectful—based, he later said, on their "body language and continued whispering." (A tape from the arrest indicates that the girls in fact remained "mostly silent" during Ortiz's questioning.) He then arrested each girl in the room, saying he was trying to "prove a point" and "make [them] mature a lot faster."

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the arrests violated the students' Fourth Amendment rights, saying that the arrest of a middle schooler "cannot be justified as a scare tactic, a lesson in maturity, or a chastisement for perceived disrespect." They also rejected the school resource officer's argument that he had qualified immunity, which would have shielded him from legal repercussions had the court determined he violated a student's constitutional rights.

Overreacting school resource officers are not a new phenomenon. In one infamous case, a Texas school cop convinced an assistant principal that it was possible that one of the 22 female students in a middle school choir was hiding a missing $50 in her undergarments, because "girls like to hide things in their bras and panties." The ensuing mass strip search did not turn up the money, but it did inspire a federal lawsuit.

Photo Credit: Phakorn Kasikij/Dreamstime.com

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  • Brian||

    Well that's nice.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Do NOT be disrespectin' Mah Authoritah.... It be agin the LAW!!!!!

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "I Am The Law" -- Judge Dread wannabe.

  • DiegoF||

    You betrayed the law!

  • Tony||

    And that's why you always leave a note!

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    One of the girls was a bully. Three were her victims.

    So three were used to it, and one found her future career path.

  • DenverJ||

    *golf clap

  • Don't look at me.||

    Well ok, if I can't arrest 'em , I'm a gonna tase 'em!

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    The school asked Sheriff's Deputy Luis Ortiz, the resource officer assigned to the campus, to provide mediation for the incident.

    It seems like they overlooked the teachers, principals, and guidance counselors who would have been better suited to the task. Lots of options, but hell, let's just let the cops take care of it.

  • Exsqueezeyou||

    Yeah, but none of the teachers, principals or guidance counselors went to the police academy. One will come out of the academy like fucken superman but always one training session away from omnipotence.

    Looks like it was a case calling for qualified immunity over in loco parentis. The school staff was smart enough not to jeopardize their pensions.

  • DenverJ||

    Yeah that was almost as stoopit as stationing a cop full time in the school to start with.

  • Tony||

    "School policy to suspend any student involved in a fight, regardless of who was at fault."

    I remember that shit. It's practically Cardassian.

  • Eddy||

    Kim, Khloe, or Kylie?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    I was thinking along the same lines even before I scrolled down far enough to see your comment. :)

  • Exsqueezeyou||

    "...regardless of who was at fault."

    And that is why the smart kid throws the first flurry of punches.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    "Before we let you back into the classroom, how many lights are there?"

  • Hamster of Doom||

    >>>two victims and a third middle schooler went to the school office to tell administrators about the bully's continued threats.

    And I hope we learned a lesson about trusting authorities, ladies.

    Poor kids didn't seem to have a good option on the table. Fight back, get in trouble and probably get hurt. Don't fight back, also get in trouble and probably get hurt. Tell someone, get into more trouble and maybe get shot or tazed if someone's in a bad mood.

    They're being socialized, all right.

  • DenverJ||

    Join forces, teach bully a lesson she never forgets, get in trouble

  • perlchpr||

    If the penalty for being late is death, and the penalty for treason is death, and we're already late...

  • Eddy||

    I must say, the cop mediated the heck out of that dispute! I'm impressed.

    And it taught a valuable lesson - don't snitch, it will only make things worse.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Snitches get NYT editorials.

  • Rossami||

    This is why we need to get "Resource Officers" out of schools. They can't help but escalate situations. They are trained to deal with adult criminals and have zero training for dealing properly with adolescents. Everyone is terrified of statistically trivial school shootings and ignoring the far, far greater risks created by putting police inside the schools.

  • DenverJ||

    Yup

  • John C. Randolph||

    They are trained to deal with adult criminals

    "trained"? Are you sure?

    -jcr

  • Longtobefree||

    How about, just for a couple of years, we try cop-free school zones?

  • DenverJ||

    Yup. Putting cops in schools is one of the worst ideas ever. I mean, what sane people would pen their children inside a building with an armed psychopath?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Sane people don't have children.

    Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your kids. :)

  • crufus||

    Did the cop check their panties to make sure they weren't hiding any contraband?

  • sharmota4zeb||

    He said he wanted to make them mature quickly. To be frank, that guy sounds creepy.

  • Longtobefree||

    Wait; I was in too much of a rush.
    This was "The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the arrests violated the students' Fourth Amendment rights"
    When in hell did the 9th start to give a damn about individuals?????

  • perlchpr||

    (Assistant Principal Balbina Kendall informed the parents that it was "school policy to suspend any student involved in a fight, regardless of who was at fault.")

    Well, that's fucking stupid. Someone needs to receive a beating at work, and then be suspended from work for it.

    They also rejected the school resource officer's argument that he had qualified immunity

    Ha ha, fuck you, pig.

  • Jerry B.||

    Yeah, but if the parents of a bullied girl went to that school and beat up Ms. Kendall, I bet she wouldn't be suspended. Guess what's sauce for the goose isn't sauce for the gander if the gander is a school administrator. Guess it's good, though, that the kids are getting a living example of the 'fairness' of law.

  • Bill||

    You know what else would make them mature a lot faster?

  • DiegoF||

    Hitler?

  • John C. Randolph||

    school policy to suspend any student involved in a fight, regardless of who was at fault

    Of all the idiotic shit that public school bureaucrats have come up with in my lifetime, that's pretty close to the top of the list. Who cares about justice? Kid gets beaten up by mongo, punish him!

    -jcr

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm not sure why they pay this guy's salary when you could just prop a rule book up behind his desk.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The last thing you want is school officials thinking and making judgments.

  • Griffin3||

    So you walk up there and pop the school principal in the nose, and you both get arrested for assault? Hey, I'm cool with that.

  • ||

    If school regulations require the suspension of everyone involved in a physical fight, even a passive victim, then the solution is clear -- punch the principal. When someone is the victim of an unjust policy, suddenly the policy stops looking so wonderful.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Punch The Principal was the title of my high school talent show act.

  • AlmightyJB||

    What fun is power if it's not arbitrarily applied?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Can we fire school resource officers to prove a point?

  • Rockabilly||

    Well....then...there should be a law that says it's ok to arrest someone to "Prove a Point."

    There.

  • Sevo||

    "...He then arrested each girl in the room, saying he was trying to "prove a point" and "make [them] mature a lot faster.""

    Getting fired and sued might make him grow up a bit.

  • Hugh Akston||

    (A tape from the arrest indicates that the girls in fact remained "mostly silent" during Ortiz's questioning.)

    Good on them.

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