Henry County G A March 25 2012 A Henry County sheriff’s deputy knocked down and handcuffed an 11-year-old special needs student, then charged her with simple assault on a police officer, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the girl’s parents.
Deputy Richard Gaouette, who works as a school resource officer for Henry County, was called to the school on May 4, 2010, after the girl, upset that her snow globe broke in art class, wandered outside Smith Barnes Elementary.
According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court two weeks ago, the 11-year-old, suffering from an emotional episode, ran back inside the school when she spotted Gaouette.
The deputy pursued her and ordered her onto the ground, the girl’s parents claim in the suit. They say she did not understand the command.
Then, according to the suit, Gaouette “violently kicked her legs out from under her. With [the student] on the ground, Gaouette grabbed her arms and legs to immobilize her.”
The deputy then allegedly left the girl unattended and handcuffed, causing physical and emotional harm, the filing claims. The cuffs were removed following “an outcry from teachers on the scene,” the suit alleges.
Gaouette had been called to Smith Barnes before and was familiar with the girl’s condition, her parents said. Besides assault on a officer, the girl was also charged with simple assault on a teacher and disruptive behavior. A juvenile court judge ultimately dismissed all charges, the suit says.
Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer is also named in the suit for failing to “properly train school resource officers to properly respond to and/or handle special needs students within the schools.”
Gaouette remains a school resources officer, according to the Henry sheriff’s website.
The suit seeks punitive damages from McBrayer and his deputy.
A copy of the suit was emailed to the AJC Friday. Efforts were being made to contact a spokesman for the family.
A spokesman for the sheriff’s department had not yet responded to a request for comment Friday afternoon.