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News >  K-12 education

Spokane Public Schools paid $275,000 to family of student restrained by resource officer

UPDATED: Fri., July 23, 2021

Spokane Public Schools agreed to pay a Ferris High School student and his family a $275,000 legal settlement over a 2019 excessive force incident.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane Public Schools agreed to pay a Ferris High School student and his family a $275,000 legal settlement over a 2019 excessive force incident. (TYLER TJOMSLAND/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane Public Schools paid $275,000 to a student and his family involved in a 2019 excessive force incident at Ferris High School where a school resource officer pinned a student to the floor to stop a fight.

According to settlement documents, the money will be split between the student, his brother who witnessed the incident and their parents.

In a statement, Spokane Public Schools said, “SPS is committed to continuing to make improvements that will lead to fulfilling our mission statement of Excellence for Everyone with support from our employees, families, and community.”

The family’s attorney said in settlement documents the student had been subjected to excessive force by an officer who used a chokehold on a teenager and thus violated both school policy and state law in January 2019.

According to court documents, several witnesses saw the student approach another in the cafeteria on Jan. 24, 2019. An argument started between the two. Though some witnesses saw the confrontation escalate, other witnesses said the argument never got physical.

SPS Resource Officer Shawn Audie was across the cafeteria when he saw the argument. He saw one of the students involved spill their water and thought someone had pushed him, though that student later said this was unrelated to the argument, according to court docs.

Witnesses saw Audie grab the student and immediately pin him to the ground. The student punched Audie several times, Audie later said. Some witnesses said they also saw another student, as well as others, physically attempt to stop Audie from restraining the student.

The student pinned by Audie has asthma and several witnesses said they saw him “turning purple.” The student’s brother got a text from someone who told him his brother had been thrown to the ground in the lunchroom.

The brother went to the scene and tried to grab Audie and stop him from pinning his sibling. Audie said the brother punched him in the head. A school janitor restrained the brother as he watched his sibling start to panic.

Witnesses said Audie had the student pinned on the ground. Audie then arrested him, as well as the brother, for third-degree assault. The two spent a night in the Juvenile Detention Facility, according to court documents. The charges were dismissed in June 2019 after mediation.

The family’s attorney said in settlement documents that the brothers and their parents suffered emotional trauma as a result of the incident.

The attorney said the actions Audie took also violated school policy that requires an officer to use de-escalation tactics unless a student shows a real and immediate threat of harm to themselves or others. A chokehold on a child also violates the state standard for reasonable force against a child when force is necessary, the attorney said.

The school district also had a responsibility, according to documents, to consider Audie’s history of being involved in excessive force lawsuits while he was an officer at the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

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