Last week, a special needs child in Dallas found himself the victim of brutality when campus police tasered and handcuffed him. They then sent him to several days of psychiatric treatment without even informing his parents.
Yosio Lopez was a 7-year-old student at Gabe P. Allen Elementary in Dallas. He was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and another mood disorder. This causes outburst and class disruptions, among a number of other behaviors.
He typically has a nurse accompany him to class, but on Tuesday, May 9, she wasn’t there. It was a standardized testing week and aides were not permitted to be in the classroom.
He had an outburst, which involved banging his head against the wall. This has happened before. But, without the nurse there, the campus police were called. The school also called his mother, April Obin, saying only that there was a problem with her son. She rushed to the school but by the time she got there, it was too late.
“Before she could get to the school, the DISD police department was called, and handcuffed the child and took him away,” Said Amar Dillon, one of the family’s lawyers.
Odis got to the school to hear shocking news. “’My son was acting up, which he does every other day. My son was running, which he does every other day. My son was saying absurdities, which he does every other day. And just like every other day, I was called to go and pick him up that morning. When I got there, (I said) ‘Where’s my baby? (The employee said) ‘Oh, he’s not here. He was acting out, he was saying the absurdities, so he’s gone.’”
The boy later told his mother that he was thrust face down on a desk with the principal’s elbow pushed into his neck to inhibit movement. Then his arms were cuffed behind his back and the police took him to a nearby mental facility without informing his parents.
Dillon also said that the police hit his legs with a baton, leaving bruises, as well as using a taser in an effort to calm him down.
“The boy did vividly describe being shocked and his body convulsing,” Dillon said. “He was very clear about that.”
His grandmother, Eva Alejandro told NBC 5, what the boy had said, “He said, ‘The police laser tagged me at school,’ and he says, ‘My body did this real, real bad,’ and he goes, ‘By the time you knew it I had those handcuffs on my back. He goes, ‘I couldn’t get out of it, and all I wanted was my mommy.”
He was held at the Dallas Behavioral Center for several days, heavily sedated. For the first two days, his mother couldn’t even go see him. The hospital staff claimed he was “a danger to himself and those around him.”
He was released Monday and is at home recovering. But the family has sought legal counsel. They think that the incident was a result of “failure of training.” The family also doesn’t know why he was kept in psychiatric care for six days.
Their lawyer is demanding answers and wants a detailed report as to what happened that day. Neither the family nor their lawyers believe that the police were properly trained to handle a known special needs student.
“He was denied his safe place,” Odis said. “I feel cheated and my son feels cheated.”
The school district would not comment on the incident, only giving a token statement, claiming confidentiality laws. “The Dallas Independent School District is committed to educating the whole child each day, and in doing so, we believe in providing a productive learning environment that is safe for all staff and students. While there has been media interest into an alleged incident at one of our Dallas ISD campuses, due to federal confidentiality laws protecting the privacy of all students and their families, we are unable to publicly confirm or deny the matter reported.”
When the family arrived at the Dallas Behavioral Center, they took photos of the child in handcuffs as well as the bruises and then released them on social media. When the photos went viral and the town was outraged, the DISD police responded with a written statement.
“The image you may have seen posted is of a student while he is being restrained to protect himself against any further harm,” the statement said. “We ask for your help during this period to not continue to spread misinformation.”
However, the family’s legal counsel says that the behavior of the school was not proper protocol in handling such an incident. No specifics of a lawsuit have been released at this time.