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Lawsuit: School Resource Officer Used Excessive Force on Autistic Student

— October 12, 2020

The City of Statesville, Michael Fattaleh, and the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education were recently hit with a lawsuit after a 7-year-old student was handcuffed and treated with excessive force by the school’s resource officer.

A lawsuit was filed late last week against the City of Statesville, Michael Fattaleh, and the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education over allegations that a “7-year-old child with autism was treated with excessive use of force by a school resource officer, and was face down on the ground for almost 40 minutes.” The incident happened back in 2018, and according to the student’s parents, Fattaleh “was an officer with the Statesville Police Department and a school resource officer at Pressly Alternative School at the time of the alleged incident.”

Image of an Autism Awareness Graphic
Autism Awareness Graphic; image courtesy of karelinlestrange via Pixabay,

What happened, though? Well, according to the suit, the student was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when they were seven-years-old. At the time of the alleged incident, the child was only 4 feet, six inches tall and weight about 80 pounds. The parents noted in the suit that “school board employees and necessary Statesville Police officers were kept updated on the child’s diagnoses and mental health updates.” During the first couple weeks of school at Pressly, the child “experienced behavioral issues…especially during transitions.” The suit states:

“On September 10, 2018, the boy had been prescribed a new medication, and several employees within the school system were notified. Then the next day, the boy became agitated and verbalized being stressed out after a number of transitions in and out of the classroom…The child was transitioned to the school’s quiet room to help him calm down, according to the complaint, and was in the presence of a special education teacher, behavioral specialist, and teaching assistant.”

The suit further states that a staff member informed a school resource officer that they didn’t “need assistance, but Officer Fattaleh abruptly entered the room several minutes later.” From there, he allegedly “saw the child spit on the floor as the officer walked past,” according to the complaint. Then, the suit argues that “Officer Fattaleh said ‘he’s mine now’ and placed the child in handcuffs, made the child kneel, and told the child ‘if you spit on me, I’m going to put a hood on you.’” He also allegedly asked the 7-year-old child if they had ever “been charged before or had been introduced to the juvenile justice system.” Additionally, he allegedly placed his “knees on the child’s back to hold him down.”

As if that’s not bad enough, the suit alleges Fattaleh never asked the staff “for any behavioral or mental health information about the child before entering the quiet room.”

The child’s parents are accusing Fattaleh of ‘excessive use of force’ and is accusing “the education staff of failing to intervene, despite training and knowledge of the immense harm being done to the student.”

When the child’s mother arrived at the scene following the incident, the child was still in handcuffs. She took her child to the ER right away, where the child was “diagnosed with multiple abrasions, scratches, and bruises from the incident on his arms, back, abdomen, and wrists.”

As a result of the ordeal, the child has been left with extreme anxiety and has not returned to school since September 12, 2018, according to the suit.


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