An as-yet unnamed Boyton Beach, Florida, police officer has been placed on administrative duty after he was caught on camera kicking the legs out from under a handcuffed 13-year-old for “no reason,” and now the child’s parents are planning to file a formal complaint. Kevens Jean Baptiste, 13, was riding the bus to school last Thursday, when he decided to open his window to get some air. Baptiste explained that his asthma was acting up after another classmate sprayed perfume, making it hard for him to breathe. “I was coughing, and my face was turning red and stuff,” Baptise told NBCMiami. “So, I just let down my window.”
When Baptiste refused to comply with the bus driver’s orders to put up his window, the driver pulled over and called the police, who removed Baptiste from the bus and handcuffed him. At least two students on the bus were filming the incident on their cellphones and captured one of the responding officers forcefully grabbing Jean Baptiste by the torso and neck, dragging him to the grass, prompting one child to exclain, “They’ve got Kevens in a choke hold!” In a second, even more disturbing video (above), an officer is seen swiftly approaching Jean Baptiste, kicking his legs out from under him, sending the teen to the ground.
“They can’t do that!” a child on the bus is heard yelling. “I recorded it!” yelled another.
“He didn’t say anything,” Jean Baptiste said about the officer who kicked him to the ground. “He just kicked me and put me in the back of the car. He just took me to school, got my information and he left.” Jean Baptiste’s parents only found out about the incident when the video surfaced on YouTube.
“You can’t treat a kid like that. [The officer] needs to be fired, you know,” Rene LaGuerre, the boy’s stepfather, told the AP.
I wholeheartedly agree. In what universe is it okay for a police officer — or any adult – to kick an unarmed, restrained child, knocking him to the ground? While Jean Baptiste was lucky to walk away uninjured, it’s repulsive that these officers thought it was okay for them to assault a child, whose biggest “crime” was opening a goddamn school bus window to relieve his asthma. Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said the officer has been placed on administrative duty and “We are committed to reviewing the situation in its entirety and taking whatever action is deemed most appropriate at the conclusion of our investigation.”
And another thing: what compelled this school bus driver to call the police over something so minor in the first place? According to the American School Bus Council, some 480,000 school buses carry 25 million children to school each day, but this incident, and the many others I’ve read about, leaves me wondering what experience is required for these jobs besides a high school diploma and a valid driver’s license. I took the bus to school for years and have numerous memories of bus drivers whose personalities went beyond the “cranky” stereotype. In 4th grade, I attempted to bring a snail home from school with me (who didn’t have a pet snail at some point in elementary school?), only to have my bus driver announce that “animals aren’t allowed,” then grab the snail and squash it under his shoe in front of me. While this of course pales in comparison to the treatment Kevens Jean Baptiste endured, it was incredibly upsetting and prompted my parents and the parents of other students on my bus route to call a meeting with the principal and the bus driver, who ended up being transferred to another route. Call me crazy, but maybe school bus drivers should, at the very least, be people who don’t, I dunno, hate children and perhaps even have some experience with them? After all, they’re entrusted with the car of these youngsters for upwards of an hour per day, often for an entire school year.
In any case, I truly hope that the officers involved in this incident are disciplined to the fullest extent, as assaulting children is not in any way representative of their duty to “serve and protect.”