Police Department: Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office
The ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab and Tulane’s Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic are representing the parents of a ten-year-old Black student with disabilities in a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish School Board and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, whom police put in a chokehold and arrested after he had an outburst at school.
J.H.’s disabilities made him a target for bullying; he regularly ate his lunch in the administrative offices to limit his contact with other students. In the spring of 2021, J.H. was eating lunch and feeling upset about the bullying he had endured in the previous class. After he threw a box of tissues, school administrators threatened to call his parents as punishment. Minutes later, J.H. struck the principal from behind and ran into the hallway. He threw a trashcan through a window, then walked around, crying. School administrators immediately called 911 instead of helping J.H. to calm down. The 911 dispatcher advised the four responding officers that the student was on medication. Arriving at the elementary school and seeing the fifth-grader in tears, Officer Steven Trapani immediately attempted to handcuff J.H., who pulled his hands away. Trapani grabbed J.H.’s neck and held him in a chokehold as he dragged him toward the school. Officers then interrogated J.H., in handcuffs, for over an hour without allowing his parents inside. The officers then took J.H. to the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Assessment Center where he was detained for four hours and not allowed to see his parents.
The lawsuit points to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Louisiana State Constitution, and other Louisiana laws.
The defendants in the case are:
- Jefferson Parish School Board; and,
- Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.