MEMPHIS (CN) - Two white school security officers who subdued a violent student say they were fired because of their race, not their use of force.
Richard Pinner and Henry Todd sued the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools boards of education in federal court Monday for race discrimination.
Pinner and Todd were working at Northwest Prep Academy on Feb. 1, 2013 when an out-of-control student had to be taken down because of her belligerent behavior, according to the complaint.
"Officer Pinner attempted to place handcuffs on the student. The student jerked her arm with only one handcuff on the wrist. The student swung her arm with the partially loose handcuff attached," the lawsuit states. "Officer Pinner became concerned for his own safety and others from the loose swinging handcuff. He used accepted law enforcement procedures to take the violent and dangerous student to the ground to complete handcuffing. Plaintiffs notified their supervisor and requested assistance from the Memphis City Police."
Chamella Branch, the school's black principal, threatened Pinner and Todd after the handcuffing incident, they claim.
"Ms. Branch saw that a student had been taken down by a security officer. Ms. Branch yelled, 'I'm tired of you white officers beating up on my black babies. I'm going to have you fired'," the complaint states.
The security officers were immediately suspended and then fired for using excessive force. They say their skin color was the real reason for their termination.
"Plaintiffs are members of a protected class consisting of members of the white race," the complaint states. "The adverse employment actions taken by Memphis City Schools terminating plaintiffs were done so because plaintiffs are white; members of the black race would not have been terminated under the same circumstances."
Pinner and Todd say black officers accused of excessive force are counseled rather than fired on their first offense, but they were not afforded that due process.
"The use of force in this case was recorded on video which shows conclusively that the use of force in this case was in compliance with the school security services manual," according to the complaint. "Termination in this case was based entirely upon the racial animosity expressed by Ms. Branch whose relative, upon information and belief, is the chief executive of labor relations."
Northwest Prep is one of six schools in the school system where students with violent tendencies are assigned, the complaint states. Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools have merged since the time of the incident.
Pinner and Todd seek punitive damages. They are represented by Everett Gibson of the Bateman Gibson Law Firm in Memphis.
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