A now-viral video out of central Florida depicted Taylor Bracey of Osceola County being body-slammed by a Liberty High School school resource officer on Jan. 26 as the 16-year-old Black girl reportedly was involved in an altercation with other students. This week citizens and several community organizations showed up to a Lake County School Board meeting in Tavares, Florida, to voice their concerns about the relationship between school leaders and Black students.
“There’s absolutely no reason why a police officer, a grown man, should ever knock a girl unconscious or taze a student,” said David Caicedo, the president of the Florida Student Power Network, referencing both Bracey’s case and that of another black girl who was tasered by a school resource officer at Lake County’s Eustis High School on Jan. 26.
Bracey reportedly was knocked unconscious after Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy Ethan Fournier threw her to the floor with a tackle that made her head audibly bounce off the concrete.
“We speak up for these kind of injustices,” Caicedo said at the meeting. “In no way does a child ever deserve to have permanent damage. I don’t even want to hear it. I don’t accept that at all.”
Osceola County Sheriff Marco Lopez said last month there is more to the story.
“From my understanding it was a disruption of a school function,” Lopez explained. “She was not in compliance with lawful demands. She went after another student, and that’s where the continued investigation is going from there.”
Two parents filed injunctions days later against Bracey, saying that she was trying to physically fight their daughters. Bracey faces assault and disorderly conduct charges, and her family has hired prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
On Facebook, the Osceola Sheriff’s union defended Fournier’s actions, saying the truth will come out and parents need to hold their kids accountable.
Fournier has been placed on paid administrative leave as the case has now been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Justice groups like the Black Girls Coalition, Florida Student Power Network and S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective say the deputy deserves punishment.
“Listen to Black girls,” said Tanisha “Wakumi” Douglas, the founder of S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective. “What we know is that in the vast majority of cases, before there is a violent incident a Black girl has used her voice to say to school officials, ‘I am not OK, I am concerned about bullying.’ I am concerned about harassment, and unfortunately our schools for whatever reason — our school officials don’t take our Black girls seriously when they say those things.”
Others at Monday’s school board meeting asked for more training of school resource officers (SROs).
“In Florida, there is no statute of a state-level rule regarding SRO certification to deal with our children,” a woman identified as May Hazelton said. “I believe this school board must answer, does the Lake County Sheriff’s Office require juvenile specific training as part of the training platform? If so, are parents informed of this training? Does it specifically address dealing with children with troubled backgrounds?”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now asking witnesses to come forward with any additional video they have of the Bracey incident.