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14-year-old Knox County student with autism dragged by police officer, mom says

One Knox County mother is speaking out after she says her son, who has level-2 autism, was handcuffed and dragged on his stomach by a Knoxville police officer.
Credit: WBIR

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — A Knox County mother is calling for change. She said her 14-year-old son, who has autism, was treated like a suspect at his school, instead of a child with a disability who needed help.

"He got to his state of crisis, his fight or flight mode kicked in very quickly,” said Desiree’ Dale, mother of the 14-year-old.

In a meeting with Knox County Schools leaders, Desiree' said it started when her 14-year-old son became agitated at school. She says administrators came to the classroom to help him calm down.

But she says they didn't stay long enough.

"He then picked up a stool and began verbally threatening staff," said Dale.

Next, she said the school resource officer heard what was happening and entered the classroom.

"The officer removed the chair from my son's hands my son hit him," Dale said.

Dr. Kimberly Russell, whose daughter also has autism, says that was a mistake

"You don't want to respond to them with excessive force or violence because that will only make the situation worse," Russell said.

Dale told Knox County schools, it did get worse. She said that the officer dragged her son on his stomach, around 15 feet. He ended up spending around an hour in juvenile detention and was charged with assault.

The Knoxville Police Department said that the incident has been investigated and the officer was cleared of wrongdoing. They also say as a result of this incident, all SRO's had additional training to avoid another incident like this one.

"Extensive training to all staff who may become involved in these types of situations should be required in all KCS buildings. An untrained person should never intervene," Dale said.

We reached out to Knox County Schools for a statement. Their statement is below:

"The Knoxville Police Department is an important partner in maintaining a safe and secure environment at our schools. We appreciate KPD for recognizing the need for ongoing training to further support these efforts."

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