A video showing a school resource officer bodyslamming a 16-year-old Black girl has sparked outrage and renewed calls to get police out of schools in California’s Antelope Valley.
The video, captured at Lancaster High School on August 30, shows Mikaila Robinson yelling as she is pinned down by an officer.
Her mother, students and activists gathered outside the school in protest on September 15.
Lisa Bloom, a civil rights attorney representing the Robinson family, told reporters that the family wants answers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which provides police services for school campuses in the area.
“What we have heard from the sheriff’s department is that my client was a ‘threat.’ What was the threat? We haven’t been told specifically,” Bloom said. “She says that all she did was walk up to the school resource officer and say: ‘Why are you looking at me like that? Is something wrong? Is everything OK?'”
Bloom said the sheriff’s office claimed foul language had been used during the encounter. “My client says she didn’t use any foul language, it was her friend. At any rate, the foul language was not a threat,” she said.
According to Bloom, Robinson had been trying to walk away when she was thrown to the ground. “The sheriff’s deputy says she was walking away from him and that’s why he had to take her down. That is not a justification to take down a child,” she said.
Bloom is exploring all legal options, including filing a civil suit against the officer and the Antelope Valley Union High School District.
“This unarmed, nonviolent African American child did nothing to warrant anyone touching her, much less slamming her to the ground as was caught on video,” she said.
“After this incident the girl was secretly taken to juvenile hall, not even allowed to call her mother. She was treated like a criminal when she was simply a child minding her own business in her own high school.”
Bloom has also joined a campaign calling for the school district to cancel its contract with the sheriff’s department. “Black students are 16 percent of the Antelope Valley student population yet they received over half the law enforcement contacts,” she said.
The sheriff’s department said the student had “physically resisted” the school resource officer.
In a statement to Newsweek, the sheriff’s department said: “During the incident a School Resource Deputy is depicted attempting to detain a juvenile student in relation to a criminal complaint. The juvenile physically resisted the detention and the School Resource Deputy used force to effect the detention and take the juvenile in to custody.”
The department added: “As in all use of force incidents, an in-depth review of the policy and tactics utilized during the incident is being conducted. We will thoroughly review our actions related to this incident and take appropriate administrative action, if necessary.
“The Sheriff’s Department has been working in partnership with the Antelope Valley Union High School District for several years with the continuing goal of providing a safe environment for all involved in the learning process.”
In a statement to ABC7, the school district said: “The District, in conjunction with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, is reviewing the incident. The District and Sheriff Department have a shared commitment to ensure the safety of all our students at all our schools.”
Newsweek has contacted the school district for additional comment.