On October 10th, 2013 at Blair Middle School, 11-year old Tae’Quan Smith left his class line outside of the cafeteria to use the restroom. What followed was “great force and violence” committed by school resource officer and 22 year veteran, Officer Cynthia LaVertu. This according to a $500,000 lawsuit against her actions, is where LaVertu allegedly grabbed Tae’Quan by the arm, and then forced his contact with a wall or locker. Four years later, LaVertu continues to patrol for the Police Department, according to spokeswoman Cpl. Melinda Wray, but was removed from Blair Middle School after the incident.
Jonathan DeLoatche, the Smith attorney, stated that police officers are not to enforce discipline in school unless there is a crime or imminent threat. “He was committing no crime, and there was no imminent threat to (anyone). It was goofing off in the hallway, if anything.” Tae’Quan’s mother, Tandakelia Smith, was suing LaVertu for gross negligence and battery toward her son. Smith had her son admitted to the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD), where a minimum of two doctors concluded and testified that his left forearm was broken and it was possible he may not fully recover.
LaVertu’s lawyers alleged Tae’Quan disobeyed his substitute teacher when he wouldn’t get back in line. The officer told the student that he wouldn’t be disrespecting the teacher, before taking action. As part of her counter-argument, LaVertu noted there was no evidence of a break in any of Tae’Quan’s X-rays or MRIs. Support to her testimony would have included two doctors who analyzed the X-rays concluding there was no sign of a break, and the doctor who treated Tae’Quan at CHKD who would have testified the boy had a left shoulder strain. This requiring he wear a sling for a few weeks.
However, due to his age, doctors initially treating Tae’Quan believed the arm’s growth plate was fractured and treated the arm as such.
Ultimately, Judge Michelle Atkins approved a $14,000 settlement on July 28th. It concluded that Smith attorney DeLoatche be compensated $5,800 and $626 go toward the medical costs incurred. The remaining funds, $7,564, will be held by the Circuit Court Clerk and then distributed to Tae’Quan Smith, currently fifteen years of age, when he reaches adulthood. According to DeLoatche, Smith is currently in good health with no sign of permanent arm damage.