By Post Staff
Schools Supt. Antwan Wilson has apologized to a student and his family on behalf of the school district after a video was released last week that shows two school security officers using excessive force to subdue a Fremont High school freshman, including punching him and placing him in a chokehold.
District officials contacted the student’s family last Friday to apologize, and Supt. Wilson apologized in an internal memo to district staff and leadership.
“We are deeply sorry and apologize to (the student) and his family, as well as the OUSD community at large,” he wrote. “What happened in this January 2014 incident is absolutely unacceptable. This should not and cannot occur anywhere in OUSD, ever.”
The January 2014 incident occurred during the administration of interim Supt. Gary Yee. Supt. Wilson, who started in July, told staff that this incident would be investigated and all previous investigations related to excessive force by school security officers would be reviewed.
The significance of the video did not come to light until Oakland Unified School District’s Legal Department received an inquiry from a local attorney.
When Oakland School Police Chief Jeff Godown reviewed the written report and the DVD of the incident, he discovered that the video did not corroborate the written report, and proper protocols were not followed in handling of the incident, according to a school district memo.
Chief Godown was not yet working for OUSD at the time of the incident.
“The only narrative in the entire (district police report) that had any truth to it is the child’s statement,” said the chief.
“I just don’t see any reason for them to have physically touched him or pushed him,” he said. “You see the kid punch the (school security officer), which he admits because he’s choking to death,” Godown said.
In response to the video, the district “placed the two (security officers) in question on administrative leave, effective Tuesday, March 3,” sent the video to the local police and District Attorney for potential criminal prosecution, and is planning to provide training for all school security officers, according to the March 6 memo.
“This incident is unacceptable because of its very nature: adults in an educational environment treating a child in a violent manner,” the memo said. “The overall response of the students and adults in the video suggest disturbing acceptance of this type of situation.”
This incident comes less than a year after another incident where two school security officers assaulted a student in a wheelchair at Oakland High in May 2014.
“While the Fremont incident predates the one at Oakland High by several months, their proximity suggests a systemic problem that needs to be addressed with significant and tangible reform,” the memo said.
The January 2014 video shows the 15-year-old student in a doorway when he is confronted by two security guards, one of whom shoves him from the back. They place him in a chokehold and drag him, his arm twisted, into the office of the school.
When he attempts to flee, he is pushed against a wall and swings at the security officers. Then, mostly off camera, according to district officials, one of the officers punches him several times.
Supt. Wilson said in his letter to school employees: “When I watched the video, I was angered by what I saw; not only the excessive force, but also the apparent response of some of the adults who either failed to act on behalf of the student during and/or after the incident,” he wrote.
“The security footage shows people going about business normally as the struggle unfolds in the school office,” he wrote.
School district spokesman Troy Flint told the Post that the video was originally “reviewed by certain site staff as well as members of the police force who conducted an investigation of the incident.”
“Our concern, beyond the obvious and reprehensible misconduct,” Flint said, “is that the investigation was not conducted to an appropriate standard and that relevant personnel beyond those at the school site, staff and in the police department were not informed of the incident. That includes (former interim Supt.) Gary Yee.”
A school security officer goes to trial next month for felony assault for punching the student in a wheelchair in May 2014 at Oakland High School.
The security officer’s attorney Nabiel Ahmed told the SF Chronicle: “Without the appropriate resources, a school security officer is forced to deal with a very difficult situation alone or with very limited help.”