Civil Rights Organizations Call for Accountability in Police Assault of Woodland Hills, PA StudentViolence Against Que’Chawn Wade Marks Latest Incident in Call for School Culture Shift
WOODLAND HILLS, Pa – On April 3, Steve Shaulis, a Churchill police officer at Woodland Hills High School, assaulted and injured Que’Chawn Wade, a 14-year old student, after publicly using expletives and derogatory slurs towards him. The offending officer body slammed and repeatedly punched Wade in the head, causing him to lose two teeth and sustain bruises and multiple lacerations to his face and neck. The Alliance for Police Accountability, the Education Rights Network, the Alliance for Education Justice and Advancement Project, national office released the following statement.
“Que’Chawn Wade’s assault is the epitome of what happens when schools dehumanize Black and Brown youth and criminalize them through inappropriate and overly aggressive policing practices,” said Brandi Fisher, president of the Alliance for Police Accountability. “Our message to the Woodland Hills School District is clear: no student action can ever justify such violence. When children fear that they will be the target of abuse at the hands of adults in school, we cannot expect them to thrive and be successful in that same environment.”
“Tragically, we know that Que’Chawn’s assault was not an isolated event,” continued Fisher. “Multiple incidents of violence against students, some involving Steve Shaulis, have gone unresolved, creating a culture in which harassment of, and violence against students has been normalized. We call on the Woodland Hills School District and the Allegheny County District Attorney to complete a thorough investigation. We demand the Churchill Police Department terminate Steve Shaulis immediately.”
The Allegheny County District Attorney and the Churchill Police Department announced the opening of investigations last week regarding the assault. Woodland Hills High School Principal Kevin Murray was also previously placed on leave after he swore at and physically assaulted a 14-year-old student in December, 2016.
“A child was physically abused because someone made the poor decision to let police officers have a regular presence in a school building. We must shift resources away from practices and staffing that criminalize students and invest in positive approaches like counselors and restorative practices instead,” said Pamela Harbin, organizer for the Education Rights Network, a Pittsburgh member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign.
“Parents and the community must understand that Que’Chawn’s assault cannot be justified under the guise of school safety,” said Jonathan Stith, national coordinator for the Alliance for Educational Justice. “The assault is part of a growing crisis around school police brutality where the only ‘resource’ officers provide are excuses for physically, emotionally, and psychologically harming Black and Brown students. The assault at Woodland Hills High School is the third incident of violence against a student at the hands of a school police officer nationally in 2017, and the15th documented since the assault of a student at Spring Valley High School in Charleston, South Carolina. We must hold the police, school district, and education leadership responsible for their role in these incidents and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.”
“Que’Chawn Wade’s assault is yet another example of why police officers must be removed from our schools nationally,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s national office. “There is a fundamental mismatch between the nurturing school climate students need to learn and grow, and the culture of policing, a culture primarily tasked with law enforcement. The very place where students should be free from harm and harassment, is now a place where they must fear for their bodily safety because of the actions of adults. Que’Chawn could be anyone’s child and we must hold the Woodland Hills School District, the school board and the Churchill Police Department accountable for their complacency in the gross deterioration of school climate. We stand with the Alliance for Police Accountability, the Education Rights Network and the Alliance for Educational Justice to ensure that students have an opportunity to learn and thrive.”
The Alliance for Police Accountability (APA) works to bring the community, police, and government officials to a working relationship and put an end to racial profiling, police brutality, and injustice within the criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and policy.
The Education Rights Network, a campaign of One Pennsylvania, is a parent led organization that works to achieve inclusion and equity for all students in Pittsburgh. The campaign works to develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative group of parent leaders to achieve fully resourced, inclusive and quality education, from birth to 21, for students with special needs in Pittsburgh.
The Alliance for Educational Justice (AEJ) through the Movement Strategy Center (MSC). AEJ aims to promote non-punitive school reforms and safe learning environments for all students with a focus on students of color and LGBTQ youth. It is comprised of membership-based organizations committed to engagement of youth of color and their parents—two key constituencies deeply impacted by racial achievement gaps and bias-based disparities in school disciplinary policies.
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.