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  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: acluco.org/redemption. Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at https://action.aclu.org/give/support-aclu-colorado

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Douglas County School District, Sheriff and SROs for Handcuffing an 11-year-old Child With Autism

March 9, 2021

DENVER – ACLU of Colorado filed suit today against the Douglas County School District, Douglas County Sheriff and several School Resource Officers (SROs) after they aggressively handcuffed an eleven-year-old Hispanic child with autism and left him in a patrol car for hours, causing him to become so dysregulated that he banged his head repeatedly and sustained injuries. Without seeking medical attention, officers drove the child to a juvenile detention center and placed him in custody until his parents were able to post a $25,000 bond. ACLU of Colorado is suing the district and officers involved in this case, for violating the student’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fourth Amendment.

“When we saw him, his forehead and arms were so swollen and bruised,” his mother Michelle Hanson said. “A.V. doesn’t headbang. He must have been extremely dysregulated. After we bailed him out, he wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t speak. A.V. was — is — definitely traumatized. We all are.”

On August 29, 2019, A.V. faced disability-related challenges when a classmate at Sagewood Middle School wrote on him with a marker. A.V. is part of an affective needs classroom and has an individualized education plan (IEP) that outlines his necessary accommodations and potential triggers, like touch. A.V. was triggered by the student writing on him and the classroom aide did not intervene. A.V. got upset and poked the other student with his pencil. Even though A.V. left the classroom voluntarily after this and was calming down with the help of the school psychologist, the SROs insisted on stepping in and a situation that could have been handled constructively became a criminal matter.

“A.V. has suffered both physically and emotionally as a result of the SROs’ violations of his rights,” said Arielle Herzberg, ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney. “The Douglas County School District and Sheriff’s Office have a pattern and practice of their officers mishandling situations involving students with disabilities and unnecessarily ensnaring them in the criminal legal system. Handcuffing kids should never be used as classroom management and making parents pay thousands of dollars in bond for their safe return is unacceptable.”

Douglas County has a long record of disproportionately putting children with disabilities and children of color into restraints and seclusion, and referring these students to law enforcement. In the 2018–2019 school year, the Douglas County School District restrained and secluded more students than any other Colorado school district. The District’s own “Restraint Reports” from 2016–2019 show that in over 70% of the cases, the children had “center-based” learning needs and/or moderate needs. A Colorado Department of Education report found that during the 2018–2019 school year special education students were nearly three times as likely to be referred to law enforcement than those with no special education needs. The study also showed that Latinx students were more than five times as likely to be referred to law enforcement than non-Latinx students.

“Across the U.S. and here in Colorado, students — particularly students of color and students with disabilities — are experiencing significant harm at the hands of SROs under the guise of school safety,” said ACLU of Colorado Cooperating Attorney Jack Robinson. “These experiences of excessive force and implicit bias are causing students and families trauma, often for years to come, and reinforcing the school to prison pipeline. Children like A.V. don’t need handcuffs or criminal charges — they need compassion, and an understanding of the needs of students with disabilities.”

The SROs involved are deputies who work for the Douglas County Sheriff. None of the SROs were disciplined in A.V.’s case. On the contrary, SRO Sidney Nicholson, was commended for his handling of the situation. He was deemed to have completed his SRO training and recommended to be moved to solo status just a few days after the incident. Only months after handcuffing A.V., SRO Nicholson repeated his behavior, handcuffing a twelve-year-old child with disabilities after that child became escalated. As with A.V., he left that child handcuffed for hours. In both cases, the SROs’ actions resulted in unnecessary criminal charges being filed against the children.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s policies state that all officers are trained in recognizing mental health and related disorders, including autism, and are trained in de-escalation techniques. But in reality, SROs receive little or no training on interacting with students with disabilities and how to keep these students safe. In A.V. ‘s case, the SROs demonstrated their lack of training when they approached him in a threatening manner that escalated the situation. Then, although the SROs knew A.V. was hurt, they refused to get him medical attention. As a result of being handcuffed, arrested and held in custody for hours while his parents scrambled to meet the $25,000 bond, A.V. now suffers from severe anxiety and PTSD.

“One of A.V. struggles is he doesn’t advocate for himself very well,” Ms. Hanson said. “Will he ever feel comfortable advocating for himself and his friends again? Will he ever feel safe talking to a police officer again?”

Ms. Hanson is represented by ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein, Senior Staff Attorney Sara Neel, Staff Attorney Arielle Herzberg and ACLU Cooperating Attorney Jack Robinson of Spies, Powers & Robinson, P.C.

ACLU of Colorado wants to hear from families who have had similar experiences with SROs. Please write to: https://aclu-co.org/counselors-not-cops/

RESOURCES:

Additional stories: https://aclu-co.org/counselors-not-cops/

SRO bodycam footage: https://www.dropbox.com/s/bx7lv3sz692uqqr/Young%20Student%20Handcuffed%20by%20SROs.mp4?dl=0

Limit The Detention of Juveniles, SB21-071 factsheet: https://aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/SB21-071-fact-sheet.pdf

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The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

ACLU Presenta una Demanda Contra el Distrito Escolar del Condado de Douglas, el Alguacil y los ORE por Esposar a un Niño de 11 Años con Autismo

DENVER – ACLU de Colorado presentó una demanda hoy contra el Distrito Escolar del Condado de Douglas, el Sheriff del Condado de Douglas y varios Oficiales de Recursos Escolares (ORE) después de que esposaron agresivamente a un niño hispano de once años con autismo y lo dejaron en una patrulla durante horas, provocando que se volviera tan desregulado que se golpeó la cabeza repetidamente y sufrió heridas. Sin buscar atención médica, los oficiales llevaron al niño a un centro de detención de menores y lo pusieron bajo custodia hasta que sus padres pudieran pagar una fianza de $25,000. ACLU de Colorado está demandando al distrito y a los oficiales involucrados en este caso, por violar los derechos del estudiante bajo la Ley de Estadounidenses con Discapacidades y la Cuarta Enmienda.

“Cuando lo vimos, tenía la frente y los brazos tan hinchados y amoratados”, dijo su madre Michelle Hanson. “A.V. no golpea la cabeza. Debe haber estado extremadamente desregulado. Después de que lo sacamos de apuros, no comía, no hablaba. A.V. estaba – está – definitivamente traumatizado. Todos lo somos.”

El 29 de agosto de 2019, A.V. enfrentó desafíos relacionados con la discapacidad cuando un compañero de clase en Sagewood Middle School escribió sobre él con un marcador. A.V. es parte de un aula de necesidades afectivas y tiene un plan de educación individualizado (PEI) que describe las adaptaciones necesarias y los posibles desencadenantes, como el tacto. A.V. fue provocado por el estudiante que escribió sobre él y el asistente de la clase no intervino. A.V. se enojó y golpeó al otro estudiante con su lápiz. Aunque A.V. abandonó el aula voluntariamente después de esto y se estaba calmando con la ayuda del psicólogo de la escuela, los ORE insistieron en intervenir y una situación que podría haberse manejado de manera constructiva se convirtió en un asunto criminal.

“A.V. ha sufrido tanto física como emocionalmente como resultado de las violaciones de sus derechos por parte de los ORE,” dijo Arielle Herzberg, Abogada de Personal de la ACLU de Colorado. “El Distrito Escolar del Condado de Douglas y la Oficina del Sheriff tienen un patrón y una práctica de que sus oficiales manejan mal situaciones que involucran a estudiantes con discapacidades y los atrapan innecesariamente en el sistema legal penal. Esposar a los niños nunca debe usarse como administración del aula y hacer que los padres paguen miles de dólares en fianza para que regresen a salvo es inaceptable.”

El condado de Douglas tiene un largo historial de poner desproporcionadamente a niños con discapacidades y niños de color en restricciones y aislamiento, y remitir a estos estudiantes a las fuerzas del orden. En el año escolar 2018-2019, el Distrito Escolar del Condado de Douglas restringió y aisló a más estudiantes que cualquier otro distrito escolar de Colorado. Los propios “Informes de restricción” del Distrito de 2016-2019 muestran que en más del 70% de los casos, los niños tenían necesidades de aprendizaje “basadas en el centro” y/o necesidades moderadas. Un informe del Departamento de Educación de Colorado encontró que durante el año escolar 2018-2019 los estudiantes de educación especial tenían casi tres veces más probabilidades de ser remitidos a las fuerzas del orden público que aquellos sin necesidades de educación especial. El estudio también mostró que los estudiantes latinx tenían más de cinco veces más probabilidades de ser remitidos a la policía que los estudiantes no latinx.

“En todo Estados Unidos y aquí en Colorado, los estudiantes, particularmente los estudiantes de color y los estudiantes con discapacidades, están experimentando un daño significativo a manos de los ORE con el pretexto de la seguridad escolar,” dijo Jack Robinson, abogado colaborador de la ACLU de Colorado. “Estas experiencias de fuerza excesiva y prejuicios implícitos están causando traumas a los estudiantes y sus familias, a menudo en los años venideros, y están reforzando el flujo de la escuela a la prisión. Los niños como A.V. no necesitan esposas ni cargos criminales; necesitan compasión y comprensión de las necesidades de los estudiantes con discapacidades.”

Los ORE involucrados son diputados que trabajan para el Sheriff del condado de Douglas. Ninguno de los ORE fue sancionado en el caso de A.V. por el contrario, el ORE Sidney Nicholson fue elogiado por su manejo de la situación. Se consideró que había completado su entrenamiento ORE y se recomendó que lo cambiaran a la condición de solo unos días después del incidente. Solo meses después de esposar a A.V., ORE Nicholson repitió su comportamiento, esposando a un niño de doce años con discapacidades después de que ese niño empeoró. Al igual que con A.V., dejó a ese niño esposado durante horas. En ambos casos, las acciones de las ORE dieron como resultado que se presentarán cargos penales innecesarios contra los niños.

Las políticas del alguacil del condado de Douglas establecen que todos los oficiales están capacitados para reconocer la salud mental y los trastornos relacionados, incluido el autismo, y están capacitados en técnicas de desescalamiento. Pero en realidad, los OREs reciben poca o ninguna capacitación sobre cómo interactuar con estudiantes con discapacidades y cómo mantenerlos seguros. En el caso de A.V., los OREs demostraron su falta de capacitación cuando se acercaron a él de manera amenazadora que agravó la situación. Entonces, aunque los ORE sabían que A.V. resultó herido, se negaron a recibir atención médica. Como resultado de haber sido esposado, arrestado y mantenido bajo custodia durante horas mientras sus padres se apresuraban a cumplir con la fianza de $25,000, A.V. ahora sufre de ansiedad severa y trastorno de estrés postraumático.

“Uno de las luchas de A.V. es que no se defiende muy bien a sí mismo,” dijo Hanson. “¿Alguna vez se sentirá cómodo defendiendo a sí mismo y a sus amigos de nuevo? ¿Alguna vez se sentirá seguro hablando con un oficial de policía de nuevo?”

La Sra. Hanson está representada por el director legal de ACLU de Colorado, Mark Silverstein, la abogada senior Sara Neel, la abogada personal Arielle Herzberg y el abogado colaborador de ACLU Jack Robinson de Spies, Powers & Robinson, P.C.

ACLU of Colorado desea escuchar a familias que han tenido experiencias similares con los ORE. Por favor escriba a: https://aclu-co.org/counselors-not-cops/

RECURSOS:

Estarías adicionales: https://aclu-co.org/counselors-not-cops/

Imágenes de bodycam de los OREs: https://www.dropbox.com/s/bx7lv3sz692uqqr/Young%20Student%20Handcuffed%20by%20SROs.mp4?dl=0

Limita las Detenciones de Juveniles, SB21-071 hoja de hechos: https://aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/SB21-071-fact-sheet.pdf

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ACLU de Colorado es la organización de derechos civiles más antigua del estado, que protege y defiende los derechos civiles de todos los habitantes de Colorado a través del litigio, la educación y la defensa.

 



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