SILVER SPRING, Md. — A community came together Sunday to bring attention to how a 5-year-old Montgomery County student was allegedly treated by police after he wandered away from a school.
More than a hundred people protested the January 2020 incident at East Silver Spring Elementary School that only recently came to light.
The family filed a lawsuit against two Montgomery County Department of Police officers, the county, and the Montgomery County Board of Education claiming the boy was assaulted and suffered mental anguish when he was allegedly mistreated by police, both near and at his school.
The lawsuit alleges a Montgomery County Police Officer told the boy, “Does your Mama spank you? Does your Mama spank you? ... She’s going to spank you today,” as caught on body camera footage that has yet to be released.
“I cannot imagine the fear in this young child's eyes and heart as he was handcuffed and screamed at and called nasty and put in the back of a police car. There was no excuse for that. No excuse at all,” Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando said. “If that's what happened. Because all I have is the plaintiff's statement, I don't have the body camera footage requested months ago.
East Silver Spring Elementary Principal Michael Burd released a statement regarding the incident on January 23, 2021.
"We have heard from members of our community with concerns about recent news stories about an incident that occurred at our school in January 2020. While I am unable to share specific details about this incident due to the pending lawsuit, I want to assure you that we are unwavering in our commitment to ensure that East Silver Spring Elementary School is a safe place where all students can learn, thrive and reach their highest potential. We follow all proper processes and procedures when responding to incidents involving our students and always have their safety and well-being as our top priority. We understand that many of you may be deeply troubled by the accounts of the incident that you are reading and hearing about in the news and have questions. Please know that we will provide any updates on this matter as appropriate. We thank you for your continued support of our school community,” the statement reads.
However, the incident detailed by lawyers is enough to have parents concerned for their own kids.
The lawsuit claims one of the officers called the boy “a violent little thing” and told him when he grows up handcuffs will be his best friend. The lawsuit also claims the officer briefly handcuffed the boy inside the school.
“As adults, you know you should do the better thing right like you should maintain composure and I believe the job is to you know to make sure to calm down the child to reassure the child, and you know, to bring them back to the school. So I was really shocked that something like this would have happened,” MCPS parent Tonia Chicas said.
Earlier in March, County Executive Marc Elrich announced they are re-imagining the police force. In a budget meeting, he said School Resource Officers (SROs) will not be in schools next fall.
“In the fall SROs will not be, we will not have the SRO program. The SROs will not be in schools. We are taking a very different approach,” Elrich said. “They will have beats that include the wider areas that would encompass the different school districts, and they will not be stationed in the schools. If there's an issue that you know a crisis that requires a police officer they'll be available for response, but we want to move toward bringing more appropriate responses into the schools.”
Elrich said they are looking to modify the budget moving forward to put additional funding to put social workers in all high schools.
That’s something parents said could have made the difference in how this young boy was allegedly treated.
“You know, instead of if the police do not have the appropriate training to help a child, then maybe we should get other people that can do a better job of helping a child,” Chicas said.