Rich Township Dist. 227 settles suit that alleged Rich Central cop rammed, slammed freshman student

Rich Township High School District 227 settled a lawsuit that alleged a police liaison officer used excessive force against a Rich Central student while responding to a classroom disturbance in March 2017.

The District 227 board approved a $35,000 settlement without comment at its July 16 meeting.

District officials, as part of the settlement agreement, denied the substantive allegations of the complaint, admitted no liability or wrongdoing and said they were settling the claims to save the district further legal costs.

The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed by the student’s father in February 2018, claimed the officer had thrust his 14-year-old daughter — a 5-foot-2-inch, 105-pound freshman — against a radiator unit, slammed her to the ground and placed her in a detention hold after responding to an incident between the teen and another student.

An attorney for the family described the incident between the students as a verbal dispute that had never become physical and said the officer’s use of force was unnecessary to maintain safety in the classroom.

The suit further alleged that when the student’s parents met with school administrators to discuss the incident, they denied the officer had grabbed the student or taken her to the ground despite cell phone video of the altercation that showed otherwise.

In the past, the family’s lawyer declined to provide the Daily Southtown a copy of the video.

The police liaison officer, a Prairie State College police officer and retired Cook County sheriff’s deputy and investigator, continued working in the school after the incident, the suit claimed and district records confirmed.

The student allegedly suffered physical injuries, severe emotional distress and reputational damage and seriously considered transferring schools as a result of the incident, according to the suit.

Superintendent Johnnie Thomas said Tuesday that he could not comment on the district’s settlement of the lawsuit or address its allegations. He would not say whether the officer still works for the district.

Employee time records obtained by the Southtown last year in response to a Freedom of Information Act request showed the officer continued working in the school after the alleged incident on March 24, 2017, and was still employed by the district when the lawsuit was filed the following February.

District officials, in response to a request for the officer’s disciplinary records and any memos or emails regarding the incident, said they had none. They also said they had no job application, resume or employment contract for the officer and could only provide his hire date — Sept. 29, 2010.

An attorney for the student’s family did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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