Shocking footage from a security camera at a Detroit high school made public this week shows an assistant principal body-slamming a 14-year-old to the ground right before his jaw was allegedly broken by school resource officer.
The incident happened to the boy, Elijah Wynn, last October at West Side Academy High School, but his mother has just filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Public Schools Community District — one of three filed this week alleging abuse by school staffers in the area.
According to lawyer Jonathan Marko, who is representing the Wynns and handling the other two suits as well, Elijah had left school to take a city bus home when he realized he had left his wallet back on campus. When he tried to re-enter a school building, the assistant principal allegedly forced him out of the building and pushed him to the ground.
Then Wynn "mouthed off" to a resource officer, who allegedly retaliated by punching the child in the face, Marko said.
One of the other lawsuits against claims that a teacher in the same Detroit district slammed a door on a 7-year-old boy's hand, severing his finger. The third lawsuit, against the neighboring Hazel Park School District, alleges that a slammed door resulted in an injured 8-year-old girl almost losing her finger as well.
Neither school district responded to requests for comment from NBC News, but The Detroit Public Schools Community District released a statement to local NBC affiliate WDIV:
"The district has not been served with a lawsuit regarding this issue so we are unaware of the specifics regarding the claim. We will investigate the matter at that time and determine our position and response. The video in question relates to a student who was not authorized to enter the school and was repeatedly asked to leave by several school officials."
According to Marko, who is representing the plaintiffs in all three cases, there is a systemic issue of student abuse in the Detroit area. He cited low morale, little to no training for school faculty, and a lack of accountability as underlying issues leading to these incidents.
"And then when something goes wrong, rather than address the issues, they’re covered up or hidden," Marko said.
Marko noted that in the footage of Wynn’s alleged assault captured by a security camera, there are several seconds missing that he believes would have shown Wynn being punched by the officer.
"Clearly the video’s been edited, these are security cameras in the school, they shouldn’t skip ten to eleven seconds," he said. "It’s not a coincidence that the portion of the video is missing."
Camilla Barnes, whose 7-year-old son Jason Brandon attends Henderson Academy in the Detroit Public Schools Community District and sustained the finger injury, cited similar neglect and deception in her son’s case. Barnes alleges that her son had been attempting to reenter his classroom after being sent outside, and his teacher slammed the door — on the boy's finger — in frustration.
Barnes said that the school called her saying that there had been an accident, but did not mention that her son’s finger had been completely severed from his hand. When she arrived at the school, the nurse gave her a plastic bag with her son’s finger inside, and she took him to the hospital in an Uber taxi.
"I just want everyone to hold teachers, principals, the school accountable. There needs to be a difference made," Barnes said. "When we send our children to school, we want them to come back whole as we sent them. My son is no longer the person I sent to school, I have him back differently. He’s feeling different about himself, that’s something he has to deal with for the rest of his life."