School district and school police officer face federal lawsuit

Jon Campisi Jul. 26, 2011, 8:25am

The mother of a Philadelphia high school student who allegedly had his arm broken by a district police officer is suing the School District of Philadelphia in federal court.

Philadelphia attorneys Patrick G. Geckle and Maureen O’Connor filed the civil rights complaint July 25 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern of District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Philadelphia resident Monique Williams.

Williams is suing in her capacity as mother of Robert Caldwell, a minor.

In addition to the school district, school police officer William Burns is also named as a defendant.

According to the lawsuit, Caldwell was taking a practice reading test for the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) at Thomas Fitzsimons High School on Dec. 17, 2010, when two boys sitting near him started playing music loudly on their computers.

After asking the two to turn down the music, a fight ensued between the boys, which required the intervention of school officials.

At first, “Mr. Boyd,” who is listed as dean of the high school, entered the room and restrained Caldwell by wrapping his arms around the minor, and separating him from the other two students.

At this point, defendant Burns received a call about a fight, and responded to the scene. When he arrived, Burns immediately went over to Caldwell, grabbing the student’s arm and pulling it backwards, the lawsuit states. The arm made a “loud cracking sound,” after which the two adults released Caldwell.

“As a result in Defendant Burn’s actions, the bone in Plaintiff’s arm was jarred out of place and visibly pushing against Plaintiff’s skin,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff was unable to hold his arm up, so it fell limp and collapsed against his side.”

Caldwell was then taken to the nurse’s office, where his arm was placed in a sling, the suit states. The student was then rushed to St. Christopher’s Hospital where he underwent emergency treatment to fix his arm.

Caldwell ended up suffering a left humeral shaft fracture and displacement of the distal fracture fragment as a result of Burn’s conduct, the lawsuit states.

The complaint accuses Burns of acting “willfully, deliberately, maliciously or with reckless disregard of Plaintiff’s constitutional and statutory rights.”

As a result of the defendant’s actions, Caldwell suffered physical and psychological harm, substantial pain and suffering, all to his detriment and loss, the suit states.

The lawsuit also accuses the School District of Philadelphia of being “deliberately indifferent” to police abuses on the part of its officers.

The complaint states that Williams, Caldwell’s mother, seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and other applicable costs.

The plaintiff has demanded a jury trial.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-04644-MAM.

More News