Gresham High School students are planning a walk out and march to the Gresham Police station to protest a white Gresham police officer's handling of a campus incident with a black, female student that some say was racist and a use of excessive force. On April 15, Kamelya Jack, a 17-year-old sophomore, was called to the school administrative office over a dispute with another student at Gresham High, her mom, Loyce Robinson, told The Outlook.
Jack was suspended from school and became distressed. She told a vice principal she was going to leave the building to get some air and clear her head, according to her mother Loyce Robinson.
Administrators told Jack not to leave the building, but her mother said "she got a little bit upset" and left.
A vice principal called the school resource officer Ryan Gleason. He confronted Jack, telling her she was trespassing, Robinson said. Jack told the officer she was going to pick up her infant daughter and leave campus because she was suspended, Robinson said.
Officer Gleason radioed the school's vice principal and Robinson said the vice principal told Gleason that Jack should be allowed to pick up her baby at the school day care center, which is on the Burnside side of campus near the athletic fields.
But, Robinson said, instead Gleason "body slammed her" to the ground, handcuffed her and forced her into the back of the patrol car.
Gresham Police chief Robin Sells disputes Robinson's account of the incident.
Sells said Jack was not heading toward the day care center and was resisting the officer's instructions.
"The officer told her for 10 minutes 'you need to leave or you will be arrested' and she ignored him," Sells said.
Gleason called for a second officer and officer Dave Hickey joined Gleason.
Sells said Jack "started fighting and scratching. She wasn't complying with officers."
In trying to get Jack in handcuffs, the officers used a "controlled take down" and brought Jack to the ground in the grass to minimize injuries, Sells said.
The school called Robinson and she and her husband went to fetch their daughter and granddaughter.
"They released her to me and her father. She was a mess. She looked terrible. She had grass in her hair," said Robinson.
Robinson said Gleason clearly "used excessive force against her."
Jack has been complaining of headaches since the incident, her mom said.
Because Jack is a minor and the case is still active, the Gresham Police Department declined to release the incident report or other documents related to the situation.
Sells said "the officers handled this appropriately and they were within policy. This case has been referred to juvenile court."
Sells said the Police Department has reached out to students and teachers on campus to discuss the incident and what might be learned from it.
"The biggest takeaway is that if people are compliant with what officers are asking people to do, this kind of thing won't happen," Sells said.
To protest Jack's treatment students plan to walk out of Gresham High School in the afternoon of Thursday, May 2. Students said Wednesday they planned to march to the nearby Gresham Police headquarters.
A video circulating on social media that witnesses said they took of the incident appears to show a person on the ground and an officer struggling with the person to pin the person down.
A Gresham-Barlow School District spokesperson said this is a police matter and declined to comment.
Fewer than 10 percent of Gresham High School's 1,400 students are black or multiracial, according to the most recent statistics from the Oregon Department of Education, and the school does not have a single black teacher.
Robinson said Jack, who she described as a good student with good grades, has not gone back to Gresham High School since the April 15 incident and missed her final exams. She will go back to Gresham High to finish this year, but Robinson said she will not go back in the fall.
"No way," Robinson said.
Robinson is considering filing a complaint with the Gresham-Barlow School District and the Gresham Police Department, but declined to say if the family would file a lawsuit.
Robinson said it pains her, as an African American, to see the treatment of black kids at the hands of white police officers.
"I would like to see these officers not get away with hurting our children," Robinson said. "This has been a very difficult thing for our family."
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