Ninth Circuit Says No, You Fucking May Not Arrest A Bunch Of Middle School Students To 'Prove A Point'

from the Lack-Of-Respect-(Misdemeanor) dept

The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court has upheld the stripping of immunity from a school resource officer who clearly violated the rights of multiple students, but still felt the need to be told twice by consecutive federal courts.

School is school and kids will get in fights. Some accusations about bullying brought several seventh grade students to the school's office, along with Deputy Luis Ortiz. Ortiz reached the limits of his training and experience extremely quickly when he was unable to determine who was bullying who or why these seventh grade students wouldn't give him the respect he so clearly felt he was owed. So, here's how he made the most (constitutional violations) of a bad situation. From the decision [PDF]:

On October 8, 2013, a group of seventh grade girls (twelve and thirteen year-olds) were handcuffed, arrested, and transported in police vehicles from their middle school campus to the police station. An assistant principal had asked a school resource officer, Sheriff’s Deputy Luis Ortiz, to counsel a group of girls who had been involved in ongoing incidents of bullying and fighting. School officials gathered the girls in a classroom to wait for Deputy Ortiz. The group included both aggressors and victims, and the school did not identify or separate them.

When he arrived on campus, Deputy Ortiz initially intended to verify the information the school had given him and to mediate the conflict. Within minutes, however, Deputy Ortiz concluded that the girls were being unresponsive and disrespectful. He decided to arrest the girls because, as he explained to them, he was not “playing around” and taking them to jail was the easiest way to “prove a point” and “make [them] mature a lot faster.” Deputy Ortiz stated that he did not care “who [was] at fault, who did what” because “it [was] the same, same ticket, same pair of handcuffs.”

Ortiz's decision to arrest a bunch of students to "prove a point" was corroborated by his own recording, which undermines the arguments he raised trying to secure immunity. The court doesn't appear to be pleased it has to handle a case where the defendant is so very clearly in the wrong, but it does what it can to ensure Ortiz will be at least as displeased as the judges are.

There's nothing nice said here about Ortiz's actions and the court sees no reason to hedge its opinion with faint praise for law enforcement in general. At best, it admits handling school situations like these can be complicated, but the complexity of the situation doesn't excuse Ortiz's probable cause-less mass arrest of middle school students.

Deputy Ortiz clearly stated that the justification for the arrests was not the commission of a crime, since he did not “care who is at fault,” nor the school’s special need to maintain campus safety, but rather his own desire to “prove a point” and “make” the students “mature a lot faster.” The arrest of a middle schooler, however, cannot be justified as a scare tactic, a lesson in maturity, or a chastisement for perceived disrespect.

[...]

Deputy Ortiz faced a room of seven seated, mostly quiet middle school girls, and only generalized allegations of fighting and conflict amongst them. Even accounting for what Deputy Ortiz perceived to be nonresponsiveness to his questioning, the full-scale arrests of all seven students, without further inquiry, was both excessively intrusive in light of the girls’ young ages and not reasonably related to the school’s expressed need.

As for any questions about whether or not it had been clearly established officers cannot arrest students to "prove a point," the court quickly dispenses with that discussion:

At the time of the students’ arrest, it was clearly established that a police seizure at the behest of school officials must, at a minimum, be “reasonably related to its purpose, and must not be ‘excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction.’” Defendants do not—and indeed, cannot—meaningfully contest Deputy Ortiz’s motivation for the arrests, which he stated multiple times. No reasonable officer could have reasonably believed that the law authorizes the arrest of a group of middle schoolers in order to prove a point.

The court is also unimpressed by the officers' attempt to lie their way into the clear.

Defendants… claim that the students’ behavior in the classroom justified the arrest because there was reason to believe the students would engage in imminent fights. That assertion is belied by the audio record of the encounter, which “quite clearly contradicts the version of the story told by” the officers. The students were mostly silent, only speaking to respond to the questions posed to them. But even taking at face value Deputy Ortiz’s claim that the girls were being disrespectful to him, and whispering among themselves, this conduct in no way rose to the level of probable cause that could have justified their arrests.

In fact, as the court notes, Ortiz never attempted to determine which students were engaged in bullying before arresting them. The three plaintiffs suing him were all victims of the bullying and they were rung up just like the instigators.

There's no ducking the lawsuit. On top of that, Ortiz (and another officer named in the lawsuit) will be facing state claims in addition to the federal civil rights violation allegations. Without a doubt, officers sometimes arrest people simply to "prove a point." But usually they'll do it with a bit more subtlety and try to eliminate any recordings that might undermined their official narrative. Ortiz was so determined to teach a bunch of uncooperative seventh graders a lesson, he completely forgot to make the arrest minimally plausible.


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 3:43am

    "Deputy Ortiz concluded that the girls were being unresponsive and disrespectful. He decided to arrest the girls because..."

    ...he wanted to *really* make sure they disrespected him?

    "The three plaintiffs suing him were all victims of the bullying"

    Both before and after the arrest from the look of things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:52am

      Re:

      Funny the word "sadist" hasn't come up.. until just now!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 1:13pm

      Re:

      We could read "being unresponsive" as a disphemism for "exercising their constitutional right to remain silent", were it remotely true (the court says the opposite: they were "only speaking to respond to the questions posed to them").

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 21 Sep 2018 @ 8:07pm

        Re: Re:

        I've often commented on various sites that the working definition of 'resisting arrest' and 'obstructing police' that US police departments seem to be operating under is 'failed to teleport self into jail and book themselves the instant a cop glanced in their direction'.

        This seems to be more of the same -- answering every question he asked but 'failing' to instantly and spontaneously confess to every unsolved crime in the city was somehow being 'unresponsive'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 5:28am

    out_of_the_blue's not going to like this, is he?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:11am

    Perfect time for a Judge Dredd Quote

    "It's a lie! The evidence has been falsified! It's impossible! I never broke the law, I AM THE LAW!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:20am

      Re: Perfect time for a Judge Dredd Quote

      Disrespecting a school resource officer? That's twelve years in the isocubes, citizen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:42am

      Re: Perfect time for a Judge Dredd Quote

      Wrong quote; in that case, the evidence had been falsified.

      A better quote might be:

      The law never apologizes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 10:33am

      Re: Perfect time for a Judge Dredd Quote

      "Well, when the Law is obviously in the wrong, it's time for a break."

      I'm just happy that the court behaved so sanely. This is a good precedent to have. I just wish all those girls didn't have to be subjected to governmental bullying to get here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hamin, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:28am

    school Bully with Badge & Gun

    - a classic case of a School Bully

    - cops in schools is a really bad idea; they ain't "School Resource Officers" -- they are Prison Guards

    - why did those school officials permit Ortiz to arrest/kidnap
    those children. sue them too

    - why did Ortiz's police supervisor permit Oriz to haul these kids to jail in handcuffs? All police supervisors in Ortiz chain-of-command should also be sued and punished.

    - why did this simple matter take 5 years to resolve in the courts ?? (answer: cops get VIP treatment in our courts)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Zgaidin (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:18am

      Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

      As a high school freshman in the early 90s, I moved to a different part of the city where I grew up, and therefore schools. The new school had five full-time Resource Officers as well as 10 private security guards because there were regular incidents that school administrators could not be reasonably expected to handle. I'm not aware of any incident involving a gun, but knives, razor blades palmed between the fingers, and the like were not deployed by students against students at least a few times each year. These kids got into the sort of fights that leave at least one participant with life-long injuries and scars - and the girls were worse offenders than boys. I knew several girls that left school with heads and/or faces covered in very thin scar tissue from being repeatedly slapped with a razor blade. This is not the sort of situation in which someone with a MA in Education is very useful. So, you are both right and wrong. The cops and guards were prison guards, but they were also necessary.

      However, since the school was already in that situation when I arrived I have never known whether the prison-like environment came first or second. Was this labeling theory at its worst or a reasonable response to a developing escalation of violence?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:26am

        Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

        Permanent expulsion of kids doing these kinds of violent crimes should be mandatory. You don't need a cop for that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Zgaidin (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 9:33am

          Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

          Permanent expulsion (or rather transfer to a different school for violent kids) was the punishment for those kids, unless they went to juvie (which was frequent). But someone still has to wade in between two enraged teenagers with weapons and break it up first. If no one breaks it up, you end up with dead students. If unarmed, untrained teachers try to break it up, they'll get hurt or killed.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 3:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

            ... or we could just eliminate mandatory school attendance/truancy laws and leave kids and their parents unmolested by the government. 90% of Americans attend government "schools".
            Why does government "force" have anything to do with education?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2018 @ 8:02am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

              The level of education in America is disturbingly low and even more alarming is the fact that this is on purpose, and you suggest making it worse. What a good idea.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              cattress (profile), 22 Sep 2018 @ 1:14am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

              Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! The reason that "education" is mandatory has nothing to do with learning of knowledge and skills necessary to self sufficiency and employment. Compulsory education is because of a xenophobic worry that Catholicism could gain dominence due to a wave of Catholic immigrants. Irish and Mediterranean people like Italians, were regarded as lesser people, almost as poorly as blacks and Native Americans. All of these disfavored people we're considering immoral, unable to assimilate, and therefore unwilling and unable to suitably educate their own children without the Protestant State stepping in. School is mandatory because it is an indoctrination process, and because it would benefit the established upper class with submissive and educated workers for their businesses.

              Considering the ethnocentric reasons that made education compulsory and systematic, truency laws should be stricken. The only rule should be that no person can be denied or restricted from pursuing basic education.

              There is no widespread lack of education of young people, and this perception that there is just what I call curmudgeon belief. Curmudgeon think the youth are more disrespectful, lazy, violent, or promiscuous than in their day. Truth is crime and violent crime is down significantly, teens wait longer, have fewer partners and are getting pregnant less, and many continue to pursue education as teen parents by comparison. Teens have never not been smart asses. And I guarantee none of these curmudgeon ever lived with the intensity of organized activities that today's teens do.

              I just had my first baby, and her father and I have decided to unschool her precisely because we do not want her to suffer her rights being infringed, her creativity and individualism stifled, her love of learning squashed, and her social skills damaged.

              Perhaps if compulsory rules were eliminated and families had a greater choice in education we would see the bullying 'epidemic' dissapate. No one has to go to school with a relentless bully, because just like an adult would not tolerate such treatment, a kid could quit and get a new school. Children unhappy at home could seek out education programs that bring them happiness and satisfaction instead of victims to exercise control over or take out their frustration on.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Wendy Cockcroft, 24 Sep 2018 @ 5:57am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

                Errrmmm...

                Okay, from the top: some of that anti-Irish Catholic thing might be true on your side of the Pond but on this side it was to prevent children from being exploited as workers in mining and mills, etc. School literally saved their lives.

                Secondly... how in the world can a child pursue basic education without the money to fund it in a Libertarian world? Kiddo would have to either pony up the dough (good luck with that, kiddo) or apply for a grant (it'd help to be able to read in the first place, but then they'd need parental consent).

                Whatever your views on acceptable education are, I'm seeing a lot of very thick people due to under-funding of education on both sides of the Pond. They lack critical thinking skills, for a start. Don't get me started on spelling and grammar.

                The successes you mentioned may well be down to improvements in education in those areas.

                "Unschool?"

                Many of the home-schooled kids I've met tend to lack knowledge of the real world: at least four I know who are going into a secondary school environment for the first time from a conservative right wing home environment are going to be in for a shock because the world doesn't work the way they think it does. Basically, their home indoctrination will take its toll on their social lives at school, where they are likely to be rank outsiders. You need some kind of exposure to your peers even if they believe and act differently to the way you do. I give it three years before I find out how well No. One Son turns out, ten for the rest to go forth and multiply their parents' errors and get hammered for it. As for their social skills, I've seen that if they've not been exposed to outside ideas, homeschooled kids become defensive and shut them out. Try doing that in a work environment. Can I watch?

                We've always had an option for private education (mine was private, and excellent) but it tends to be restricted to the rich. Charter schools tend to perform better when there's a robust public option, otherwise they can be very dodgy.

                Children unhappy at home could seek out education programs...

                How? And how would they know what to look for? And how would the access them?

                ... that bring them happiness and satisfaction instead of victims to exercise control over or take out their frustration on.

                Depending on the age of the kid and the environment they've come from, the rigours of homework and exams might not bring them happiness and satisfaction. What then?

                Bullying is down to the home environment where, more often than not, the child has been taught to disdain weakness, thereby blunting any compassion for a weaker child. A nicer school won't solve that problem unless there are protocols to address it effectively.

                Sorry, I can't agree with you on this.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  nasch (profile), 25 Sep 2018 @ 1:36pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

                  Many of the home-schooled kids I've met tend to lack knowledge of the real world: at least four I know who are going into a secondary school environment for the first time from a conservative right wing home environment are going to be in for a shock because the world doesn't work the way they think it does.

                  I also know some home schooled kids who are very well adjusted and social and you would never know they were home schooled. So it really depends on the home.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 26 Sep 2018 @ 1:01am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

                    Generally speaking, if a child is home schooled because they have affluent, dedicated parents with a high enough level of education to cover a well-rounded curriculum (or employ someone who is), then they won't necessarily suffer by comparison. Especially if the child is given access to a good range of extra-curricular activities that expose them to wider society.

                    Unfortunately, many home schooled kids tend to have parents who are only interested in religious or political indoctrination, which inevitably leaves them unprepared for the real world compared to people who have been exposed to it.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      The Wanderer (profile), 26 Sep 2018 @ 4:46am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

                      I was homeschooled for several years - at first by my parents' choice, then I decided to try public school for a while, then I changed my mind and was homeschooled again up till I completed my GED.

                      Although my parents are religious (my father was a pastor, till he retired this January), the reason they went with homeschooling for me and my siblings was not over religious objections to what is taught in the public schools; none of our homeschool curriculum was religious in any meaningful way, and in fact we used official public-school textbooks for a lot of it. Rather, it was over philosophical objections to how the schools treat and teach their students - regimentation, sit-down-be-quiet-don't-fidget, et cetera; it's been long enough since I talked about it with them that I'm a bit fuzzy on some of the specific concerns involved - and over concerns about the type of mindset that type of approach would be likely to produce, if it even worked for me (and my siblings) to learn at all.

                      The tradeoff, as far as I can see, is that my social skills - while I'm friendly enough, and don't tend to feel uncomfortable talking to people, even to strangers in public - leave something to be desired, and my social life is not far from nonexistent. I suspect that at least part of that is just a matter of my own personality, however, and that I'd likely have developed in this direction to some extent no matter how I'd been educated.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        PaulT (profile), 26 Sep 2018 @ 6:02am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: school Bully with Badge & Gun

                        "in fact we used official public-school textbooks for a lot of it"

                        From what I've seen, that was definitely a good thing. Some of the stuff I've seen that apparently gets passed off as factual information in some quarters is terrifying, if true.

                        "Rather, it was over philosophical objections to how the schools treat and teach their students - regimentation, sit-down-be-quiet-don't-fidget, et cetera;"

                        That's fair, although I would still argue that there's a certain amount of stuff the school system does teach that's useful, especially if you do end up going into a career where such conformity is deemed a positive trait. But, I'll support any parents if their decision to home school isn't essentially "my kid might be exposed to ideas other than my own".

                        "my social skills.. leave something to be desired"

                        Mine too, at times, and I was very much educated through the normal British school system (not "public" school as that has a different connotation on this side of the Atlantic, but the same sort of thing).

                        I think what I'm trying to say is that while many people come out of homeschooling well prepared or even better educated than public schooled peers, the trend is often in the opposite direction. It sounds like your parents had the best intentions, and not afraid to let you strike out when you felt you wanted to, but I don't think that's the norm. I could be wrong, but it certainly seems that way.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:38am

    Court: .."consideding the age and 'SEX'?? .." WHAT DOES GENDED HAVE TO DO WITH THIS VIOLATION OF THESE STUDENTS' RIGHTS??

    The school faculty should never have brought law enforcement into this situation in the first place. That is why there is a school administration.

    As for my opinion about the deputy.. it amazes me how the government always seems to fill these positions with citizens of our great nation who seem clueless why our nation is so great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:41am

      Re:

      GENDER

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:53am

      Re:

      WHAT DOES GENDER HAVE TO DO WITH THIS VIOLATION OF THESE STUDENTS' RIGHTS?

      With this violation? Nothing.

      That's a quote from New Jersey v. T.L.O., where the issue was whether a search was unreasonable.

      I can think of a couple of situations in which searching a female student's person and her possessions might be more problematic than searching those of a male student.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:19am

        Re: Re:

        Why less problematic? As a male kid. who just turned a teen, I can't think of anything more traumatic than having my legs spread and my balls being groped by an adult male wearing a gun breathing down my neck. FUCK

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 9:47am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I agree that having genitals groped would be equally problematic for boys and girls. A few ideas, off the top of my head, of things that might be more embarrassing/disturbing for a female student than a male one:

          • A strip search during "that time of the month"
          • Removing their shirt
          • Searching their purse when there are feminine products or birth control inside

          I mean, searching a woman's purse, by itself, is often held up as the ultimate example of an invasion of privacy, for which there is no real male equivalent.

          So, you're right, I'm sure that the example you give would be equally traumatic regardless of gender. However, that's not the only example of a search that might have to be weighed differently for a woman than for a man.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard M (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:50am

    Supervision?

    Stupid cop doing something really stupid is bad enough but the fact that nobody in the chain of command bothered to stop this before sending out additional transportation to take all the girls to the police station is the most worrisome aspect.

    We keep hearing "not all cops" but until the so called "good cops" start doing something about the bad cops then yes it is most definitely is "all cops".

    The whole cops in every school thing really needs to stop. Somehow all the schools I attended managed to keep everyone in line without arresting students all the time.

    I am so glad I am not a kid today. Between schools losing their minds and social media pressures it sure sucks to be a kid in school today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:09am

      Re: Supervision?

      Not to mention all the anti-psychotic drugs these schools are so anxious to dole out to "kids" these days. I would want my kids out of that system asap.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 22 Sep 2018 @ 7:27pm

        Re: Re: Supervision?

        In my experience schools absolutely refuse to give kids any drugs at all, including OTC drugs. Where are you seeing schools eager to give kids anti-psychotics?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:51am

    Another badged asshole with no business being around kids

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:12am

      Re: Another badged asshole with no business being around kids

      So.. how many is that now? Is anyone keeping track?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2018 @ 9:48am

        Re: Re: Another badged asshole with no business being around kids

        Four, five, six, carry the three, extrapolate to the larger set...

        ...All of them?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:10am

    Cops

    You know who loves cops in schools? Texas leads the way. It's a red-state thing. Law & order at gunpoint.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      NeghVar (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:48am

      Re: Cops

      I attended Plano Senior High School in Plano, TX in 1996 and we had our liaison officer who was loved by the students and the community and still is to this day.
      Google Search: Officer Arthur Parker

      I did see him and another cop in action while at school once. A student came running out of the cafeteria with Officer Parker behind him. I then saw a squad car pull up on the far side of the gym building. An officer got out, pointed his gun. "DOWN ON THE GROUND!" Officer Parker then tackled him from behind. He was cuffed and taken into custody. I later found out that the arrested student was a dealer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 7:31am

    When I was in middle school, I was bullied and beaten up numerous times. Our liaison officer did not get involved with student-student squabbles unless a weapon or drugs were involved. That was the responsibility of the administrators of the school. We had internal and external suspensions and detentions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bynkman (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 8:44am

    Police are often over trained with persecution in mind. Arresting and charging people is part of the their job. (The justice system is not too far off from this too.) So for them, arresting people is an "everyday", easy thing. Unfortunately because it is easy for them, they often have no consideration for the difficulty and the loss of liberty for the arrestee. And sometimes they want to persecute someone to the fullest extent. (Go watch some videos about why you shouldn't submit to an interrogation with an officer without a lawyer present.) If anything, officers need to be given traing in de-escelation and compassion/empathy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 1:59pm

    Mission accomplished?

    Well, they wanted to make a point, and I'd say they did so and then some.

    'I can not be trusted with any amount of power and authority, and for sanity's sake never put me in a position of power over children' was probably not the intended point they were going for however.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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