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Rockford community protests school police violence at board meeting

Earlier this month, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against Rockford Public Schools’ Board of Education, a school resource officer, and several Auburn High School administrators.

The suit alleges that, last year, RPS school resource officer Bradley Lauer used lethal force against a 14-year-old student, Paris Moore. Security footage shows Lauer body-slamming his head on the concrete floor, knocking him unconscious and fracturing his skull. The Moore family's lawyers say he now has a traumatic brain injury.

A line of Rockford citizens spoke out at this week’s meeting. They said it’s not just about excessive force. The lawsuit also alleges a cover-up about the incident by the school board. Others protested and demanded the school remove the school police officers. Skye Gia Garcia is a Rockford resident who spoke at the meeting.

“The first question that came to my mind," said Garcia, "was how many times this has happened before and the school or the police have covered it up?”

Moore’s lawyers say the district withheld important information, like the incident report, and has refused to allow him to transfer schools.

One of the speakers was current RPS middle school teacher Justin Saichek. He said that while he has a passion for public education, he questions working in a system that turns police force on children. He says he’s seen other instances of it in the hallways of his school.

“I witnessed the officer grab the student by the wrist and curse at the student saying ‘You don't want to f*** with me.’” he said. “These actions triggered the student. The officer knew nothing of the boy's individualized education plan or special needs.”

During the meeting, community members shouted back at the board, demanding accountability. Police removed one protester from the school board meeting, while they railed against police violence in schools.

“You don’t want to address the issue,” said one community member. “You use police officers and violence. Cowards!”

Garcia says police should be pulled out of Rockford schools along with the administrators named in the lawsuit, until they use their position to condemn what happened to Paris Moore.

In a statement to WNIJ, Rockford Public Schools says they’re unable to comment.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.