A Philadelphia father is demanding action after he claims his 8–year–old son was forcibly removed from class, locked in a bathroom and berated by a school resource officer over a minor behavioral issue.
The child’s father, Isaac Gardner Sr., said the officer “dragged my son out of the classroom” at Solis-Cohen Elementary on Oct. 20, then led him to a nearby bathroom after his son had refused to sit down in art class, Philly.com reported. That’s when Gardner claims the officer “threw my son on the floor and against the wall” and spewed insults at the boy, calling him a “sissy” and saying “F-ck your father.”
Gardner, an outspoken critic of the police, said he believes the cop’s tirade was in reference to his affiliation with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since the alleged incident, the Philly father said his family has filed a police report, along with a school district compliant against the accused officer, who they’ve identified as Joe O’Malley. However, the head of the Philadelphia school police officers’ union said O’Malley had been cleared of any wrongdoing after investigations by both the district and the city.
“He’s been through the wringer, and they said the charges were unfounded,” union president Royce Merriweather told the news site.
The School District of Philadelphia is continuing its investigation into the matter, however, saying it takes the allegations “very seriously because the safety of our students is always our top priority.” In an emailed statement, district spokesman Harold Lee Whack said the officer had been removed from the school and would not return until their investigation is complete.
But parents and local activists are now demanding more accountability from the district in the wake of the incident. Lawyers with the Education Law Center, Black Lives Matter-Philly and local group Youth United for Change joined Gardner and other parents outside district headquarters this week to call for the district’s complaint process against school officers to be enforced.
“This could happen to anybody’s child,” Gardner said at a press conference. “The complaint system is a complete mess. The whole system is corrupt, [and] they need a better system so people can know that you have someone you can go to when your child is being abused from these school police officers.”
In April 2017, the District implemented a school-police complaint procedure where students who felt their rights were violated by school resource officers could report it to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities using an online form, according to local education news site The Notebook. After the form is filled out, it is forwarded to the Office of School Safety for investigation.
The Gardner family said the school’s investigation came a little too late, as they heard from no one after the 30-day investigation period into their complaint had ended. They said they now plan on pressing charges against the officer.
“What if he did this to someone else’s child?” said Lauren Gardner, the boy’s mother. “This is something that affects our whole life and our family.”