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‘Pain compliance’ comes to Española high school

This image from video of a deputy’s use of a Taser on an Española Valley High School student includes superimposed dialogue between the deputy and the special education student. (Courtesy of KOAT)

A new phrase has entered the lexicon of school security: “Pain compliance is not going to kill you.”

That’s what a Rio Arriba County deputy told a 15-year-old special education student complaining of how he hurt – he felt like he’d been stabbed “right in the heart” – after the deputy used a Taser on the kid on May 10 at Española Valley High School.

Before the deputy showed up, the student was in trouble for hitting someone with a backpack.

The encounter between student and deputy, captured on video, doesn’t start well. In playground parlance, it doesn’t seem like the teenager started it.

The deputy who comes to the school office is told that the kid has been resisting. The deputy says he’ll “put his little (expletive) in handcuffs and take him to Santa Fe,” an apparent reference to the juvenile lockup.

The teen follows orders to stand up and turn around so he can be handcuffed. The deputy asks if the student wants to be cooperative or uncooperative.

“What do you think I’m doing?” the student asks. The student, with a wave of his hand, calls the deputy a homophobic slur. That – not a violent action by the student – seems to prompt the deputy to push the teen and initiate a scuffle. Another man, apparently a school district security guard, became involved.

“I’m going to (expletive) tase you,” the deputy says during the struggle.

“Tase him, tase him, tase him,” the other man says.

The boy appears to have been tased for least at 20 seconds as he screams.

Someone in this scenario should have been the adult in the room, and we’re not talking about the 15-year-old special education student.

On the playground, the excuse for the behavior that the video appears to show would be, “But he called me a bad name.” That’s not going to work in this case.

The boy’s family has filed notice of intent to sue. The school district (despite the fact it likely will be sued) already has condemned the tasing, and the state Attorney General’s Office is investigating.

It will be up to the AG or some other part of the criminal justice system to decide if what the deputy did was a violation of any law. But there are other standards than legal ones to consider – basic restraint by a person in authority, for one.

The Journal North in the past has supported the use of armed, sworn law enforcement officers to provide security on school campuses as school shootings become commonplace in America.

The incident at Española Valley High makes it harder to support that idea.