WESTERVILLE, OHIO: A central Ohio police department has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a lawsuit by the family of a young brother and sister who were handcuffed by officers after a fight on a school bus.
Police in the Columbus suburb of Westerville denied that its officers did anything wrong, but said they decided to settle the lawsuit to minimize insurance risk, according to the Columbus Dispatch. An attorney for the school district is continuing to fight the suit filed by Tonya Mitchell and her two children over the October 2011 conflict.
The children, ages 7 and 8 at the time, were handcuffed after the bus fight and then taken to the police station and put in a holding cell until their mother arrived. Their 30-year-old mother accused police of civil rights violations and using excessive force. She accused school officials of racial discrimination against the children, who are black.
The lawsuit sought $1.5 million.
W. Charles Curley, an attorney for Westerville schools, has asked U.S. District Judge James L. Graham to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that the Mitchell children can’t “establish that they were subjected to unlawful and purposeful race discrimination.” The judge has not yet ruled on the motion.
The children were charged with delinquency counts of disorderly conduct. School records say they had pushed the bus driver, swore and threatened to punch the school principal. The charges were later dropped in Franklin because of the children’s ages, but the school suspended them for 80 days.
An attorney for the family said the children are doing well in another school district.