KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The parents of a Knox County middle school student are suing the City of Knoxville and the Knoxville Police Department, alleging a student resource officer assaulted the child at school in violation of their constitution rights.
The legal action stems from a 2021 incident at Northwest Middle School where a student was detained and searched by Student Resource Officer David Lee over claims that he could smell marijuana coming from the students backpack, though no illegal substances were found in a subsequent search.
Rather than calling the student’s parents, the lawsuit claims the officer forcefully restrained the student and slammed the child to the ground face first before placing his knee on the student’s neck in a way that made it difficult for them to breathe.
It goes on to allege that Lee took the student to a small room without cameras and kept him restrained in a manner described by the lawsuit as ‘forceful’ and ‘violent.’ In the lawsuit, it said Lee slammed the student’s face into a hard wooden table leading to a large cut on their chin that required multiple staples.
A charge of resisting arrest was issued to the student, however, that charge was later dismissed in Knox County Juvenile Court.
The student has suffered substantial physical and psychological harm as a result of the incident, the lawsuit states. It alleges the City of Knoxville and Knoxville Police Department failed to properly train the officer or outline appropriate use of force by officers, specifically the use of force on children.
By wrongfully detaining the student and use of excessive force, the lawsuit contends the actions constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees a right to be free from unreasonable seizures and unlawful and excessive force.
The suit asks that the plaintiffs is awarded damages that fully compensate him for all injuries caused from the incident. It also seeks compensatory damages not to exceed $1 million and punitive damages not to exceed $1 million, as well as court costs, expenses and attorney’s fees.
“The Knoxville Police Department does not comment on pending litigation,” a statement from a department spokesperson said. “Officer David Lee is still a School Resource Officer, though he is not assigned to Northwest Middle School.”