A Black teenage student in Tennessee is facing multiple criminal charges following an incident at his school that was caught on video and shows police officers responding to what generally amounted to a minor disciplinary issue.
The altercation at East Ridge High School resulted in a viral video that showed a school resource officer pulling the teen by his hair and backpack, forcing him onto school gymnasium bleachers and pepper spraying him directly in the face multiple times.
According to Local 3 News, the student in the video has been identified as 18-year-old Tauris Sledge, who has been charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest or obstruction of legal process and assault after the incident on Tuesday.
Here’s how it all started.
From Local 3 News:
According to the affidavit, SRO Tyler McRae and other school officials were called to the school gymnasium by the gym coach to assist with an “issue” he was having with Sledge Tuesday morning, eventually leading to Sledge being forced to the ground and pepper sprayed before being arrested.
The report said Tauris Sledge had told the gym coach he wasn’t feeling well and refused to participate in kickball for class, but later played basketball during free time. When the coach confronted Sledge about being apparently well enough to play basketball, he reportedly became aggressive and loud, calling the coach racist and other names.
While speaking with the student, Officer McRae reportedly moved to put his hand on his shoulder to pull him to the side when Sledge “bladed off” and warned McRae to remove his hand.
Sledge then reportedly “stepped up” to McRae before returning to the bleachers and putting his backpack on, ignoring commands from McRae to return.
So, let’s start with the fact that a school staffer felt the need to call the cops on a Black student because he didn’t want to play kickball and didn’t want to hear what the gym coach had to say about it. This is about as garden-variety as teen student misbehavior gets. It could have ended in detention, suspension or even expulsion if administrators really thought it was that serious. Instead, they called for law enforcement to arrest this high school teenager for doing regular-degular high school teenager stuff.
Of course, McRae’s attorney, Jerry Tidwell, had a different take, which basically draws from the Book of Caucasian Proverbs: “But, what about what happened before the video?”
“There are people making threats against my client on social media,” Tidwell said in a statement. “The 15-second video being shown on social media is only a fraction of the event that is captured on my client’s body camera which has over one hour of video of this event. I ask those in the public threatening my client and his family to allow this matter to be investigated and cease making statements that scare some and inflame others without knowing the whole story.”
So, in my opinion, nothing that happened before what’s shown in the viral video clip justifies McRae’s use of force or even an arrest in the first place. But you’re welcome to judge for yourself by viewing the full video.
It’s also worth mentioning that this isn’t McRae’s first police misconduct allegation rodeo. He was also involved in a 2019 incident in which he and another sheriff’s deputy pulled a car full of teenagers over for the window tint, claimed they smelled marijuana and searched the car and the teens. Most of those teens were girls who requested a female officer because they were uncomfortable having their bodies handled by men. McRae wrote in a Facebook post that they were not obligated to call for a female officer.
From ABC 9:
An attorney for several Hamilton County teenagers who claim they were illegally pulled over and strip-searched by two Hamilton County deputies, says one of the deputies is speaking out about the case on social media.
Robin Flores represents one of the 14-year-old girls who says she was involved in the stop. In federal court paperwork filed on December 1st, Flores claims that Tyler McRae commented about the traffic stop on WTVC’s Nov. 6 Facebook post, saying that the female’s story “is not true and that has already been proven.” In the court paperwork, Flores says McRae made these comments from “sheer foolhardiness or from knowledge that he won’t be prosecuted…”
Some cops are just not emotionally equipped to police youthful alleged offenders. They just don’t have the empathy or patience for it. And when the teen is Black it only seems to exacerbate that lack of basic humanity.
Hamilton County Schools said in a statement regarding the gym incident that the “safety of students and staff is the highest priority for Hamilton County Schools,” and that the school aims to “ensure a safe learning environment where all students feel accepted and welcomed.” But I’m just not sure how true that is when cops are being called to aggressively arrest students for the most basic of school disciplinary issues. I just can’t see it.