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Justices toss delinquency ruling for resisting school resource officer

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A high school student’s action of trying to pull away from a school resource officer who tried to handcuff him is insufficient to support his adjudication as a delinquent, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Justices reached that unanimous conclusion in K.W. v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1301-JV-20. The ruling affirms a Court of Appeals reversal of a Marion Superior juvenile court on different grounds. The COA held that there was insufficient evidence that the school resource officer was lawfully engaged in his duties.

The case arose from an Aug. 30, 2011, altercation at Ben Davis High School as K.W., then 15, and another student “faced off” with fists raised in a hallway. A teacher intervened and detained K.W. until the SRO, a sergeant with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, arrived.

The officer attempted to handcuff K.W. when he turned to walk away, after which the officer used a “straight arm-bar takedown” to tackle and handcuff the teen. Justice Loretta Rush wrote that neither the officer’s testimony nor surveillance video of the incident establish forcible resistance.

Rush’s five-page unanimous ruling also invited the Legislature to further clarify the roles of school resource officers; current statutes apply only to their engagement in law enforcement duties.

“It would be within the Legislature’s prerogative to conclude that evolving threats to school security and discipline warrant expanding the resisting law enforcement statute to apply to forcible resistance, obstruction, or interference ‘with a law enforcement, school liaison, or school resource officer, or a person assisting the officer, while the officer is lawfully engaged in the execution of the officer’s duties,’” Rush wrote.

“Not only is such a policy judgment about the changing role of school officers best reserved to a politically responsive branch of government, it would be less likely than common law to cause unintended Fourth Amendment consequences. The Legislature may wish to consider such a change,” the court advised.



 

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