Several dozen people gathered outside the Gwinnett County school district headquarters Thursday to demand two school resource officers be fired on accusations the officers used excessive force against a student to break up a fight.
With chants of “counselors not cops,” the demonstrators said they want a full investigation of the Feb. 7 incident at South Gwinnett High School and policy changes by the district, such as removing schools for students with disciplinary issues.
The organizers said they learned about the incident last week. They said an officer slammed one 16-year-old male student to the ground, knocking him unconscious.
“The time has come for change,” said the Rev. Frederick Phillips, operations officer for Black Men United for Children and Humanity.
School district officials said they reviewed the incident and concluded the officers followed proper procedure and acted appropriately. They said none of the families of the students involved contacted the school or district to raise concerns about the incident.
“It is unfortunate that an organization like SToPP can make unfounded accusations without any evidence to support their statements,” the district said in a statement of the demonstration’s lead organizers, the Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline, also known as Gwinnett SToPP. “The evidence we have, which is part of the criminal case against these students, does not support any of SToPP's allegations.”
Some of the demonstrators were from other states, visiting for an annual meeting to discuss school disciplinary issues. Five demonstrators, including a Gwinnett graduate, spoke during Thursday’s school board meeting.
“This is unsatisfactory and we will not stand for it,” said Ty Alston, who said he graduated from Brookwood High School.
School board member Dr. Robert McClure defended the district’s handling of the incident, but was interrupted by some demonstrators who accused Gwinnett of unfairly disciplining black students.
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