PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is taking legal action on behalf of a Pawtucket middle school student who believes she was wrongfully arrested.
Tre’sur Johnson, an honors student at Goff Middle School, was arrested by a school resource officer last summer, according to ACLU lawyer Shannah Kurland.
The ACLU recently filed a legal claim for $100,000 in damages that alleges Officer Darren Rose handcuffed and paraded Tre’sur around the building after viewing a video reportedly showing the teen fighting with another student prior to the start of the school day. Neither student was injured in the incident, Kurland said.
In response to the legal claim, the city of Pawtucket said it was a serious, violent incident and that both juveniles’ actions warranted them being arrested.
The claim also noted that Tre’sur’s mother, Tiqua Johnson, said her daughter has been anxious since the arrest.
“My child went from outgoing to not wanting to go anywhere, to not wanting to talk to people,” Tiqua Johnson said. “Every time she sees a police officer, she thinks she’s going to be arrested.”
Kurland said state laws limit police in their authority to arrest a person for a misdemeanor without a warrant. She also said Tre’sur had no prior disciplinary infractions.
“She doesn’t feel comfortable going back there. I had to do what I had to do and pick up another job so I can put my daughter in private school because she would not go back there,” Tiqua Johnson added.
The ACLU also drew attention to a 2015 incident where a Pawtucket school resource officer was seen on video slamming a Tolman High School student to the ground, which prompted student protests and an ACLU letter that then raised concerns about student resource officers turning routine school infractions into criminal matters.
Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU, said the arrest of Tre’sur “shows little has changed.”
But an investigation of the Tolman incident determined police and school employees acted reasonably, according to city spokesperson Wilder Arboleda. He also said reviews of Tre’sur’s arrest found protocols were followed in that case as well.
Under state law, 40 days must pass after a claim letter has been submitted to the Pawtucket City Council. Then, the ACLU will be allowed to file a full lawsuit against the city.
“The ACLU’s potential lawsuit is without merit,” Arboleda said. “We look forward to hearing from the ACLU and gathering all the facts in order to determine the next steps.”