Aurora Public Schools investigating after student tackled by security officers

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AURORA, Colo. — Just weeks from the end of the school year, an incident at Hinkley High School in Aurora is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of some parents, students and teachers.

Carlos Valdez is a history teacher at Hinkley High School. He says the incident began when school security officers ordered his class into the hallway while drug dogs searched the classroom.

Minutes later, they walked out carrying a backpack and calling a student’s name. The officers allegedly found several marijuana edibles. At that point, the student allegedly tried to run, but was tackled to the ground.

“He started screaming for people to get off of him and let him go. They didn’t have to slam him to the floor and dig a knee into his back and handcuff him,” said Kaela Fanber, a student who was in the class.

“My immediate response from that incident is that I was in tears,” said Valdez.

The incident is one of several in recent weeks involving students of color. Earlier this week, video surfaced of a substitute teacher tackling at Latino student to the ground at Hamilton Middle School in southeast Denver.

Just a few weeks ago, a 7-year-old African-American student was also handcuffed at Florida Pitt Waller Elementary School.

“They’re profiling these kids, let’s be honest,” said James Fanber, Kaela’s father.

FOX31 analyzed data from the Colorado Department of Education.

Last year in the Denver Public Schools, more than 3,200 black and Latino students were suspended, compared to about 430 white students. More than 600 black and Latino students were referred to law enforcement compared to just 73 white students. However, white students do represent only about 25 percent of the district’s student population.

That said, incidents like these do trouble teachers like Carlos Valdez, who worries about the long-term impact to students.

“Students don’t deserve to be criminalized in their own schools. I do believe this is greatly going to impact him and that’s part of what makes me so sad,” Valdez said.

Valdez and several students expressed concerns about the incident at a recent school board meeting.

Aurora Public Schools has released the following statement in regards to the incident:

“APS staff are looking into the details of what was presented at the Board of Education meeting. Specifically, we will look into whether there were circumstances that necessitated physical intervention. District policy JKA-R states that, ‘Persons employed by the district may use reasonable and appropriate physical intervention or force in the scope of their employment as necessary to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to the student or others.’ Appropriate school staff are trained to only use physical intervention when it is necessary to protect the student, themselves or other students and staff from harm. Student information is protected and as such we are unable to share additional information.”

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