After a November altercation between a law enforcement officer and a high school student left the student in a coma, civil rights groups are urging the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to ban the use of non-lethal weapons like Tasers and pepper spray on school grounds.
Last month, Sheriff's Deputy Randy McMillan, who was a school resource officer at the time, used a Taser on Noe Nino de Rivera, 17, while trying to break up a fight at Cedar Creek High School in Bastrop County, Texas. After receiving the shock from the stun gun, the teenager fell to the ground and suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The teen remains in a medically induced coma.
Now, seven civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, are fighting back against the use of non-lethal weapons on students. In a letter sent to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement on Wednesday, the groups called on the commission to implement standards barring the practice, according to a statement released by the Texas ACLU.
"Tragic incidents like this one demonstrate why the state should not grant police free rein to wield weapons in schools for the apparent purpose of maintaining order," Texas ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke said of the incident involving McMillan and de Rivera, per the group's written statement. "Schools should be safe havens from this type of police use of force. I hope the commission will heed our call to end use of Tasers and pepper spray."
The letter sent to the commission outlines the dangers of using non-lethal weapons against students and details several other incidents where Tasers or pepper spray were used to injure children.
“Incidents like the one in Cedar Creek High School remind us that very little statewide regulation exists limiting the use of dangerous, so-called less-than-lethal weapons on students. Packing a shock of up to 50,000 volts, Tasers are designed to restrain adults. They simply should not be used on children,” reads the letter.
Laws regarding the use of Tasers differ on a state-by-state basis. In Texas, the rules vary more specifically by municipality.
The family of de Rivera filed a federal lawsuit against the officer who injured their son, the school district and Bastrop County in late November. The lawsuit claims that excessive and unreasonable force was used against the teen and that his rights were violated, according to local outlet KXAN-TV.