Lawyer of Black Girl Arrested by Police for Offensive Drawing of Classmate Who Bullied Her, Demands School Reform

Photo: (Photo : Elizabeth A Ferry/Pixabay)

Mateo Caballero from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Hawaii, representing mom Tamara Taylor and her 10-year-old girl, said that the arrest violated the child's constitutional rights.

In a letter addressed to the Honolulu Police Department and the state's Department of Education, the ACLU demanded policy changes and the deletion of the child's arrest record. The lawyers are also asking for $500,000 in damages.

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Why the Black Girl was Arrested

In January 2020, a parent went to the Honowai Elementary School to complain about the 10-year-old, identified only as "N.B.," because she made an "offensive drawing" of a classmate. Witnesses said that the Black girl was handcuffed in front of her peers and taken away in a police car.

Taylor was asked to go to the school but was prevented from seeing nor talking to her daughter. The mother said that because she was "illegally detained" at the school, her rights as a parent were also taken away as the authorities failed to acknowledge her child's right to protection as a minor. A few hours later, N.B. was released to her mother.

"My daughter and I are traumatized from these events and I'm disheartened to know that this day will live with my daughter forever," Taylor said.

Taylor later learned that her daughter, a child with a disability, made the offensive drawing because the said student was bullying her. A teacher took the sketch and called the parents of the kids involved. One school staff noted that one of the other parents, who was not the bully's, insisted on calling the police and detaining the Black girl.

Because of the incident, Taylor transferred her daughter to another school and filed a complaint to the police department in May 2020. She reiterated that they were not informed of the changes, and there was no probable cause for her daughter's arrest. She also said that N.B. was interrogated without her mother or a lawyer present.

In September 2020, the Professional Standards Office of the Honolulu Police Department found no sufficient evidence for the charges. In October, Caballero then sent a list of demands from the Taylor family against "the city, the State, and their agents." They will have until November 8 to fulfill the demands; otherwise, the ACLU will represent the Taylors in the litigation.

The police department said that the Corporation Counsel is reviewing the demands while the Department of Education has not commented on the case.

More Black Students Referred to Cops

According to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), some 25 percent of school referrals to the cops in Hawaii involved Black students or kids with disabilities. For every 1,000 students subjected to police interference, about 8.4 of these have been Black kids, and 4.5 have been disabled children.

Caballero said police involvement should be the last resort, especially in a situation where the girl arrested did not make explicit threats, did not resort to violence, or had a weapon in class. If a minor has to be questioned for a misdeed in school, Caballero said that a parent or guardian should be involved.

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