Story via Courthouse News Service
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (CN) – A seventh-grader says a county police officer yanked him out of the school cafeteria, handcuffed him in front of his friends, dragged him to the band room, where no one could hear, and beat him while he was handcuffed – all because the student dressed like Ice Cube’s character in the movie “Boyz n the Hood” for school spirit week.
Latoya Mason sued the Prince George’s County School Board and county police Officer Wantalex Tilus on behalf of her son, Lennox Seaforth Jr.
During spirit week at Drew Freeman Middle School, students are encouraged to participate in themes that change daily.
On “70s and 80s” day, Mason says, students and teachers dressed in “throwback designer wear, etc., from the respective decades.”
“One particular teacher was dressed as a Hippie from the ’70s, which represented a sub-cultural youth movement known for its counter-values and embracement of the sexual revolution, psychotropic drugs, and rock-n-roll,” according to the complaint in Prince George’s County Court.
Seaforth wore a baseball cap, flannel shirt with a white T-shirt underneath, and blue jeans intended to look like Ice Cube’s character Doughboy in the 1991 movie “Boyz n the Hood.” His mom says Tilus was on cafeteria duty that day, and he “asked plaintiff whether he was ‘Gangbanging?’ Plaintiff replied ‘No’ and ran to his seat where he resumed eating lunch with his friends/classmates. Defendant Tilus walked off,” according to the complaint.
But “moments later, defendant Tilus walked across the cafeteria to where defendant was eating and told him to ‘get up!’ Defendant asked, ‘What did I do?’ …
“Within seconds, defendant Tilus grabbed plaintiff by the back of his collar snatched him up from his seat, lifting him completely off the ground, then forcefully pushed him toward an adjacent wall where he slammed him face first, Tilus then placed his hands behind his back and cuffed him,” the mom says.
Tilus then “paraded plaintiff through the aisle were his friends were seated and exited the cafeteria with plaintiff in custody in a manner so that the violent disturbance could be observed by everyone in the crowded cafeteria. This even was caught on tape,” the complaint states.
Rather than take her son to the principal’s office for his presumed offense, Tilus “marched him through the halls until he found the empty band room in which to secret plaintiff out of the sight of potential witnesses.” Mason says the cop closed the door behind them and kept away from the window in the door “so there would not be any witnesses to what he would do next. …
“(T)he band room was the perfect place to assault plaintiff because of the way the acoustics were constructed, any sound or noise could easily absorbed, included screams for help. …
“(W)hile inside this room defendant Tilus chided plaintiff about the way he was dressed then smacked him twice in the face with his full force so hard that he left whelp marks on plaintiff’s skin; throughout the entire time plaintiff remained in handcuffs.”
Mason says Tilus refused to let her crying son out of the room until he composed himself, then “marched him back to the entryway of the cafeteria, still in handcuffs and custody, so that all the other children leaving the lunch period could see him.”
Seaforth was treated by the school nurse, who documented the marks on his face as consistent with the size and shape of an adult man’s hand, according to the complaint.
Mason and Seaforth seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, excessive force, assault and negligence.
They are represented by J. Wyndal Gordon of Baltimore.