by Steven Pargett, Dream Defenders
Palm Beach, Florida – Community groups today condemned the brutality of police officers who allegedly handcuffed, choked and violently kicked a young Florida boy for opening the window on his school bus. The attack on the young man is part of a broader pattern of police brutality in Florida and the painful realities of the school-to-prison pipeline in the state.
“Instead of addressing serious safety threats, police officers in Southern Florida handcuffed, choked and violently kicked a 13-year-old child on his way to school,” said Sherika Shaw, South Florida regional organizer for the Dream Defenders.
“Weighing just a little over 80 pounds and under five feet tall, Keven Jean Baptiste was kicked off his school bus for opening a window to prevent an asthma attack. He was choked by one officer and kicked so violently by another that he toppled to the ground. He is banned from riding the bus and now serves as another example of Florida’s brutality and antagonism for children of color, who continue to face abuse and discrimination by those trained to protect and serve.”
“As with the arrest of Ja’eisha Scott, a kindergartener who threw a tantrum; the fatal shooting of Israel Hernandez-Llach, a teenager who was shot in the chest with a Taser for painting graffiti; Nalani Bolden, who was arrested, handcuffed and walked by officers through a crowd of students for trespassing at her own middle school; Kiera Wilmont, an honor student who faced felony charges and expulsion because of a science experiment gone awry; and recent revelations of abuse and mistreatment of youth in Florida’s fully-privatized and profit-driven juvenile justice system, it’s clear that the state of Florida continues to terrorize youth of color.
“We join with Keven’s family in calling for an independent investigation, for Keven to be immediately reinstated on the school bus and for the officer to be reprimanded to the fullest extent of the law. We loudly condemn this sort of police brutality as well as the overly harsh schools disciplinary policies that are pushing our children from school buses and hallways, and into the criminal justice system.”
These two videos were recorded by a student on the school bus and posted to YouTube by Takashi Katsu, who writes: “Police officer in Boynton Beach goes too far when he chokes a child as he brings him off of a school bus. Later in the second part of this incident he trips the child causing him to hit his head hard on the ground.”