No response to initial request despite new Tasing incident this week; mounting evidence these weapons pose extreme danger to children
Austin, TX – A coalition of advocacy organizations concerned with student safety is again urging Governor Rick Perry to declare a moratorium on the use of Tasers and pepper spray on Texas students. A similar request, sent on February 26, received no response from the Governor or his staff.
This latest request follows an incident this week in which a Round Rock student was Tased by a school police officer as he apparently tried to break up a lunchroom fight.
At the national and local level concern has grown about the safety of these weapons when used to discipline students. The lead editorial in The New York Times on Saturday, April 12, called on Texas to ban the use of such weapons in public schools, noting that they are already banned in state juvenile justice facilities.
In a letter sent today to the Governor’s office, the organizations note that it “makes no sense not to extend the same protections to children in public schools that we extend to youth in Texas’ juvenile facilities.”
This follow-up letter comes a day after a school police officer at Stony Point High School Tased a student who reportedly posed no significant threat and had tried to break up a fight along with several other students. Although the student does not appear to have suffered significant injuries, the incident resembles a case this past fall that left a Cedar Creek High School student, Noe Niño de Rivera, 17, in a coma for more than 50 days. Videotape of that incident shows a member of the Bastrop County Sherriff’s department using a Taser on Niño de Rivera in the aftermath of the hallway fight between two girls, even though he was not involved in the fight and had tried to break it up. The Tasing resulted in traumatic brain injury when Niño de Rivera fell and hit his head, leaving the teenager significantly disabled.
“While we appreciate the need for ensuring safety, common-sense restrictions would surely allow officers to protect the school community from harm, while at the same time restoring confidence that innocent children, like Noe Niño de Rivera, will never again suffer injury due to the inappropriate use of a weapon like a Taser,” the letter states.
Recent research has found that the overwhelming majority of crimes committed by Texas students are low-level misdemeanors that do not warrant extreme use of force.
The letter points out that Niño de Rivera’s case, while certainly the most extreme, is not an isolated incident. In another recent case, a middle school student in suburban Houston was Tased twice by a school police officer when she refused to exit a school bus after a verbal argument with another student. Taser International’s own warnings make clear that repeated uses of this kind are extremely dangerous – particularly on children.
“Our state’s children will continue to be at risk until Governor Perry takes action,” said Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed. “We call on the Governor once again to place an immediate moratorium on Taser and Pepper spray use by Texas school police officers.”
Co-signees on the letter to Governor Perry include the Texas Appleseed, Texans Care for Children, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC), Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, Disability Rights Texas, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Texas.