Demand Officer Vallon Smith's immediate and permanent removal from Syracuse City Schools
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We are concerned Nottingham High School parents and community members writing in support of fellow parent Liza Acquah and her son "JB".
On February 9, 2017, when JB was a 14-year-old freshman in the special education program at Nottingham, school resource officer (SRO) Vallon Smith assaulted him during a disciplinary incident in the school lobby. Smith punched the child in the face, choked him, and slammed him to the ground. JB suffered a split lip and fractured left elbow as a result of the incident.
Although JB's behavior was verbally inappropriate in the moments leading up to the assault, at no time was he physically aggressive or threatening. At no time did he do anything to justify Officer Smith's reaction. He was walking towards the exit, as instructed, at the time of the assault, and had his hands in his pockets. We are horrified this occurred in our school, and that Smith has been allowed to remain an SRO for more than a year after the incident.
Had a student beat another student as Officer Smith did JB, they would be disciplined. Had a parent responded to a child's verbal disrespect by breaking his arm and punching him in the face, that parent would be charged with abuse. The standard for an officer of the law cannot be lower, especially an officer tasked with protecting our children.
The Mayor's Citizen Review Board (CRB) found Officer Smith used excessive force against JB in this incident, and contradicted the surveillance video in his report. We stand with Liza Acqua, JB, and the CRB in agreement with these findings. The CRB has recommended Officer Smith be suspended without pay for one week removed from his position as SRO at Nottingham for one year; have a written reprimand placed in his personnel file; and be removed from his position as SRO for one year, at which time he would be reevaluated to determine his ability to resume his duties as SRO.
In addition, we demand Officer Vallon Smith be removed permanently from Syracuse city schools, and that SRO policies be put in place to prevent an officer with a history of attacking citizens from ever being placed in any school, in the first place. We demand policies and improved training for all SRO's in the district, specifically related to serving students with special needs.
We support JB and his mother Liza in their goal to ensure the trauma they have endured can never happen to any other child in the Syracuse City School District.
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