The family of an 8-year-old Florida boy who was arrested at his elementary school in 2018 filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against police, city and school officials.
The boy’s mother, Bianca Digennaro, claims her son’s civil rights were violated during the Dec. 14, 2018 incident. Footage of Key West police attempting to cuff the child inside his school was posted online by her attorney Monday.
“I can tell and I can feel how scared my son was,” she said about the video on Tuesday, The Miami Herald reported.
The bodycam footage shows two Key West cops telling the sobbing boy that he’s “going to jail.” One of the officers has the child put his hands up against a filing cabinet as he frisks him.
Another cop, who isn’t seen on-camera, appears to say something about the cuffs not fitting and the others agree. They then tell the boy to keep his hands in front of him as they walk him outside the school.
“He vividly remembers them slamming the big doors with the bars on them. That’s the perspective of an 8-year-old child,” said the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump.
Police were called to the school, Gerald Adams Elementary after the child allegedly punched a teacher in the chest, according to an arrest report.
The teacher said the boy repeatedly refused to sit properly in his cafeteria bench seat so she asked him to take a walk with her. That’s when he allegedly struck her and said “My mom is going to beat your a–,” according to the report.
The Monroe County State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges about nine months after the arrest, saying it was in the child’s best interest that he receive mental health treatment instead.
However, the family claims that school officials knew the boy suffered from several psychiatric conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — and should have reacted differently to his outburst.
“A mental health crisis at a school, and they feel it is appropriate to arrest, charge and have him become a convicted felon at 8 years old,” Crump said.
The lawsuit claims that the city, the Monroe County County School District and the officers, Michael Malgrat, Kenneth Waite and Fred Sims, violated the boy’s civil rights by using excessive force, not intervening in his arrest and not considering his disabilities during the incident.
Also named in the suit are teacher Ashley Henriquez, principal Fran Herin and assistant principal Kyle Sheer.
Alyson Crean, spokesman for the city of Key West and the police department, declined to comment to the Herald Tuesday because the litigation is ongoing. The school district also declined to comment, as did union reps for the cops and school staffers.