ACLU Sues Narragansett After School Resource Officer Accused of Using Excessive Force

NARRAGANSETT, R.I (WLNE) – The ACLU of RI is seeking monetary damages for a former Narragansett High School student with special needs, after an incident with a school resource officer was caught on tape in 2018.

The ACLU said the student was thrown to the ground, choked, and falsely arrested after the student gave a rude hand gesture to the SRO.

The videotaped incident shows the 11th-grade student, Michael Blanchette in an altercation with SRO Kyle Rooney.

According to the ACLU, the incident arose when Rooney confronted Michael about whether he was allowed to be in the hallway at the time.

Michael told the officer he had permission.

After a brief argument, Blanchette gave the middle finger and began to walk away.

Rooney immediately grabbed Michael and threw him to the floor.

The ACLU says the arrest report “falsely claimed” that action was taken because Michael” aggressively took a step” towards him

Blanchette was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but both charges were later dismissed according to the ACLU.

The lawsuit also claims that Rooney violated Michael’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches, and seizures.

Also named in the suit are the town’s police chief, school superintendent, and high school principal, all of whom, according to the ACLU supported or share some responsibility for Rooney’s actions.

“When he had me pinned on the ground, the entire time I was asking him if he was arresting me and he wouldn’t respond to my questions. While he was on top of me, he would explain all these different wrestling moves and army moves that he was doing to me”, said Michael.

“I was crushed by him for what felt like a very long time, and this all started because I was only doing what my teacher allowed me to do by taking a walking break in the hallway. It was very upsetting how he instantly targeted me”, he continued.

ACLU of RI cooperating attorney, Amato DeLuca said, “Schools have a mission of great importance to our state and to our nation. They are responsible for keeping our children safe while educating them. Clearly, neither the Narragansett School Department nor Police Officer Rooney subscribes to these noble principles. Instead, as this incident with Michael graphically demonstrates, they have trampled on students’ rights and undermined their feelings of safety by allowing and engaging in the excessive use of force.”

ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown remarked: “This extremely disturbing incident is yet the latest reminder of how the school-to-prison pipeline is enabled through the proliferation of a police presence in our schools.

“Again and again, SROs turn minor matters into crime scenes, and all too often school officials acquiesce in this misconduct against their students. This is not the sort of ‘resource’ that special education students – or any other students – deserve,” said Brown.

In a statement, Superintendent Dr. Peter Cummings released the following to ABC 6:

“We are not permitted by student privacy laws to discuss incidents involving students who are presently in or have graduated from the Narragansett Schools because we are legally obligated to keep that information confidential. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any lawsuit pending in US District Court involving the Town of Narragansett or the Narragansett School System.”

ABC 6 also reached out to Narragansett Police Chief Sean Corrigan but he could not comment.

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2020

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island