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Espanola School Board addresses tasing incident

ESPAÑOLA — At a special board meeting Thursday night, Española School Board members expressed frustration about not being informed of a high school special education student being shocked with a Taser by a deputy last month before the incident was reported in the local newspaper.

The meeting was held to discuss of the Española district’s school security options after dramatic lapel video from the May 10 incident came out as a result of reporting by the Rio Grande Sun newspaper. The state Attorney General’s Office is now investigating the incident.

Despite the lack of communication before the tasing became news in New Mexico and elsewhere, school board president Ruben Archuleta said the plan now is to move forward and address school security measures “immediately.”

“We’re all committed to the safety and health of our students first and foremost,” he said during the meeting. The school district had condemned the tasing in a public statement issued Tuesday.

The video shows the male teen being tased as he, Deputy Jeremy Barnes and a school security guard got into an altercation. The video shows the boy, in trouble for hitting someone with his backpack, apparently complying with orders to stand up for handcuffing by Barnes, but the deputy starts the scuffle when the boy, with a wave of his hand, calls the deputy a homophobic slur.

Barnes tased the boy in the chest, causing him to scream in pain. As the student continues to moan and says the deputy “stabbed me right in the heart,” Barnes tells him, “Pain compliance is not going to kill you.”

Board member Pablo Lujan was the most vocal Thursday night, expressing concern about the district “hiding” information from the public. He asked board attorney Geno Zamora whether the officer had proper training or whether the security guard had been placed on administrative leave. Zamora said he could not talk specifically about the incident in a public meeting for legal reasons.

“If we don’t get the (answers), and the public isn’t going to know if accountability is taking place on an incident — if that’s the case — how are we going to run the district if we have no accountability?” Lujan asked. He maintained the student could have been killed, calling that the “elephant in the room.”

Board vice president Yolanda Martinez said she’s been hearing from concerned parents and students worried to go back to school. “I feel, to an extent, that, did I fail in some capacity for not protecting this individual?” Martinez said. She said she needs information to answer questions about the case.

The board also went into executive session to discussion of the tased teen’s family’s recent notice of intent to sue the district.

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