SANTA FE — New Mexico Lt. Gov. Howie Morales on Monday condemned last month’s tasing of a 15-year-old special education student from Española Valley High School. The student allegedly had failed to comply with a police search. Lapel camera footage recently obtained and proliferated by the media showed the incident in brutal detail. Morales, who was a teacher of special education high school students for a decade in Grant County, called for far more intensive training of law enforcement officers frequently called upon to respond to school incidents.
“The taser attack on the young student with special needs in Española is totally unjustified and nauseating,” Morales said. “I am embarrassed that an adult in authority showed less impulse control and acted worse than a child did. It is our responsibility in government to ensure that such violent and excessive assaults on students in our schools can never occur again.
“I fully recognize and value the hard work of our law enforcement officers and the dangers they face daily to keep us safe across New Mexico. They make huge sacrifices personally to protect us and our communities. But the actions of the Sheriff’s Deputy in Española are completely unacceptable.
“As a former special education teacher, I will work with the State Law Enforcement Academy and local Sheriffs to ensure that officers are trained how to handle incidents involving students, in adolescent brain development, de-escalation and how to deal with students with disabilities and a history of trauma. This horrendous incident makes clear we are not doing nearly enough. What kind of message does it send to our students? We need more oversight and more advocates for the safety of children, and especially students with disabilities, inside law enforcement itself.
“We should be cultivating a supportive and caring atmosphere in our schools where students feel safe. Young people need compassion and care from school authorities and law enforcement who enter the schools. That is how learning improves. We don’t know why the student in Española was acting the way he did. But we need a zero-tolerance policy on law officers acting improperly and abusing their authority in our schools.”