KENOSHA, Wis. — The Kenosha Unified School District has released surveillance video showing a security guard and off-duty police officer putting his knee onto the neck of a student after a fight broke out at Lincoln Middle School.
The video can be watched at the top of this report.
A lawyer representing the student's family also released a statement Friday, alleging the officer pushed the student's head into the floor and then knelt with the full weight of his body onto her neck for an "unconscionable duration." He then handcuffed her and "violently lifted her" from the floor, they said.
Attorney Drew J. DeVinney also called for the Kenosha Police Department to fire the officer, identified as Officer Guetschow. He was off-duty while working as a security guard at the school. He has since resigned from the Kenosha School District.
Read the family's statement here:
"Mr. Perez just received the surveillance video from Lincoln Middle School. He is appalled by what he has seen. Officer Guetschow gripped his hand around Mr. Perez's daughter's neck and pushed her neck and head into the cafeteria floor. He then placed his knee on her neck and knelt down with the full weight of his body for an unconscionable duration. Officer Guetschow then handcuffed Mr. Perez's daughter and violently lifted her from the ground. This was a cruel and heartless act of violence aimed at a child and is unacceptable in our society.
In light of this video, Mr. Perez demands that the Kenosha Police Department immediately terminate Officer Guetschow."
During a KUSD meeting Tuesday night, parents drew attention to what some were calling a "barbaric move."
KUSD sent an email Wednesday confirming the officer in the video resigned from his position with the district on Tuesday. The district released a statement saying in part:
(The officer) resigned from his role with the Kenosha Unified School District, effective Tuesday, March 16. As it appears that this incident may lead to litigation, the district will provide no further details at this time.
Kenosha Unified offers a variety of programs to support the social and emotional needs of our students, staff and families. Students needing immediate support may schedule an appointment directly with their school counselor. Kenosha Unified families seeking support for themselves and/or their children may participate in our Student and Family Assistance Program offered in collaboration with Advocate Aurora Health by calling 800-236-3231. Lastly, district staff may utilize the Employee Assistance Program by calling 800-634-6433.
The investigation continues into the alleged incident and tensions were high among many of the parents and community members who spoke at the board meeting, with some calling for changes to district policy to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
Parents say a Kenosha police officer who was working as a security guard for Lincoln Middle School allegedly pinned a 12-year-old girl down on the ground with his knee on her neck.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, many parents said the security guard's actions were unacceptable.
District leaders released a statement on the incident:
"The Kenosha Unified School District is aware of an incident that occurred between two students at Lincoln Middle School on Friday, March 4, 2022, that required intervention by KUSD staff, as well as assistance from the Kenosha Police Department. This part-time KUSD employee, who was hired as an off-duty Kenosha police officer, is currently on a paid leave from the district. We appreciate your patience as we work with the Kenosha Police Department to investigate the facts surrounding this incident."
Before the incident, the student was "engaged in a physical altercation with another female student," according to an incident report obtained by TMJ4 News.
After the incident, the student was suspended and released into police custody.
The incident report says following the incident, "As a team, we discussed the need to encourage students to communicate to us any issues that may have with peers to decrease the chance of a physical altercation that may require staff to restrain a student."
“She’s humiliated and traumatized,” said Jerrel Perez, the father of the student. “As a father, I feel like I let her down because I wasn't there to help her.”
Perez says his daughter is sore and getting therapy. He wants to make sure what happened to her does not happen to any other child at any other school.
Perez got a call from school leaders saying his daughter got into a fight with another girl in the cafeteria following the incident.
“I didn't see the video until much later that night,” he said. “I had already grounded my daughter for the fight. She kept telling me her neck hurt, but I thought she was just trying to get out of punishment. When I saw that video of a grown man holding her down like that, I felt guilty and helpless.”
Perez stood beside his attorney, Drew DeVinney, at a protest in his daughter’s honor Wednesday outside Kenosha Unified School District’s central office. They plan to file a lawsuit.
The school district confirms the man in the video is an off-duty Kenosha Police officer, hired to work part-time for the district. He intervened during a fight between two female students. He was placed on paid leave pending an investigation into what happened prior to resignation.
According to a Notification & Report of Physical Restraint from the school district – provided to TMJ4 by DeVinney – The officer checked a box saying he “gave adequate attention and care to protecting the student’s head.” And he checked another box saying he “did not cause chest compression.”
But the officer did not check the box that says he “did not place pressure or weight on the student’s neck."
Kenosha School Board member Todd Price, whose son goes to Lincoln Middle School, acknowledges the school district must do better. He is urging parents to come to the next school board meeting on March 22.
“Lincoln is a wonderful school, but it has lots of problems,” Price said. “I will say the superintendent is doing the best she can at the moment, but it is not enough. We need to have open communication between schools, parents, and police.”
Perez says his daughter was suspended and is facing a juvenile disorderly conduct charge. He wants that charge dropped and is asking the school district to release cafeteria security video of the incident. He also wants the district to end all school contracts with police.
“I want to see that officer get charged, because if it was me, or any other parent or adult, who put a knee on a kid’s neck, that would be abuse,” Perez said.
The Kenosha Police Department declined to comment because this is an active investigation.