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Aiken Co, SC: School district lawsuit; autistic boy arrested during meltdown

Sept 13, 2023, Augusta, GA, WFXG TV: Mother of special needs student files lawsuit against Aiken Co. Schools

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. - The family of a special needs student is suing the Aiken County School District and North Augusta Department of Public Safety. They allege their student was arrested while suffering from a mental health crisis. Now, they are calling for accountability from both parties and justice for their son.

The Brannon family tells FOX54 their son was assaulted, arrested and prosecuted for doing something kids do every day: get lunch. Sylvia Brannon says the incident occurred in 2021, involving her special needs son who attended North Augusta High School.

According to the complaint, her son, (J.F.), who is on the autism spectrum was having a mental health crisis on August 27, 2021, when he was approached by the School Resource Officer, tackled to the ground, handcuffed and arrested. Brannon says the school failed to notify her and she found out the school had been placed on lock down through her other child.

"As I got into the driveway, I saw the police with my child, in the back of the police car, handcuffed and he was crying," Sylvia says. "I immediately, at that moment, asked the officer to uncuff my child and let me get my kid."

The next day, she had to turn her son in. She says they visited the Aiken County Courthouse numerous times as the minor went through the criminal justice process.

Charges of assault and disorderly conduct against the special needs student were ultimately dismissed. But, the Brannon's believe the school and department of public safety failed to train their school resource officers on how to deal with special needs students.

They maintain the officer used excessive force and unnecessarily arrested the special needs student. Additionally, they allege the school is ill-prepared to properly care for special needs students and she repeatedly had to stand up for her son and protect him from harm while at school….

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