Memorial High School Taser Incident Notes

From a reader:

Address 201 South Gammon Road (Memorial High School)
Arrested person/suspect 1. Jacquelyn L. Lightfoot, 37-year-old female of Madison (Charges –Disorderly Conduct 947.01, Resisting/Obstructing A Police Officer 946.41)
2. 14-year-old female (10th grade Memorial HS Student) of Madison
(Charges – Disorderly Conduct 947.01, Resisting/Obstructing A Police Officer 946.41)
3. 15-year-old female (9th grade Memorial HS Student) of Madison (Charges – Disorderly Conduct 947.01, Resisting/Obstructing A Police Officer 946.41)
Victim/Injuries Jacquelyn L. Lightfoot was evaluated at local hospital for treatment related to injuries sustained prior to this incident.
Details On 11/08/06 at approximately 11:29am, Educational Resource Officer (ERO) requested emergency backup at Memorial High School reference a belligerent parent that was out of control.
Upon arrival, it was determined that a 17-year-old male subject, who was not a student of the school, had been taken into custody by the ERO and was being cited/released on a municipal violation of possessing tobacco products.
Jacquelyn L. Lightfoot (parent of the 17-year-old male) was made aware of the arrest scenario and responded to Memorial High School. Lightfoot made her way to the office of the ERO and began to verbally attack the officer for the police action he was involved in concerning the 17-year-old male.
Lightfoot continually escalated her actions towards the officer and was told many times to calm down and cease her physical approach; as she demanded her son be released from custody immediately. The ERO was then surrounded by Lightfoot and her two daughters in a confined area, and deeming Lightfoot the greatest threat, a Taser was utilized by the ERO to deescalate this threat to a manageable level.
It should be noted that the officer verbalized and used a physical separation technique before using the Taser as his last resort.
Jacquelyn L. Lightfoot and her two daughters were all arrested on charges of Disorderly Conduct and Resisting/Obstructing A Police Officer. The situation that occurred was an isolated event that did not place the school in any harm at any time. School officials were quick to act in this scenario, and it was resolved quickly after police arrived on scene.
It is understandable that parents would be concerned about the welfare of their children, but school officials and police would expect that parents would be appropriate in utilizing the correct mode of conflict resolution. This is a case that all involved parties did not envision, but concerns by any interested person must be dealt with in an appropriate manner if the educational environment is to remain conducive to that of learning.

WKOW-TV interviews Lightfoot.

16 thoughts on “Memorial High School Taser Incident Notes”

  1. I’m concerned about this incident. I would not have suspected that a person in possession of tobacco products would be subject to custody (arrest).
    As a citizen, by my agreement to restriction of tobacco products, I did not contemplate that kids or anyone could be arrested for possession, even a 17 year old. A small citation perhaps, not arrest.
    I certainly will be rethinking my support of any and all “health-benefit” restrictions if the result is that it be used for unbridled use of police power.
    “The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms.” – William Douglas

  2. Does anyone know anything about the bomb scare that occurred at West on October 31? We received a pre-recorded message from Principal Ed Holmes on our answering machine; but it wasn’t very informative, and nothing appeared in the newspapers, that I saw.

  3. Larry,
    Based on the information provided here, I suspect the 17 year old was taken into custody for being on-site during the school day despite not being a Memorial student. Then, in the course of the investigation, the tobacco was found and a citation issued. My reading is that the tobacco was not the primary reason for the interaction with the ERO.

  4. A 17-year old non-student being within a school should not itself be probably cause for an arrest.
    The fact that his/her two younger siblings ARE students would certainly suggest that he, like we parents, have an absolute right to visit our school, especially in regard to dealing with issues regarding our kids (or in his case, siblings).
    Clearly, I do not have any specific facts, except the minimal that has been presented here and in the press. Certainly, not enough to conclude inappropriate behavior of the police, NOR of the 17-year old who was arrested — possession of tobacco notwithstanding.

  5. Let me get this straight: An officer is surrounded by 3 people, all of whom are threatening the officer, and you want to fault the officer’s response? Also, a 17 yr old sibling has no “absolute rights” in a school where he is not a student and his siblings are students. I routinely see high school age older siblings removed from middle school. All it takes is a staff person to say “wait outside, you don’t belong in here”. The fact that he wouldn’t leave is trespass…

  6. David,
    Your rendition of the story is not how I understand it.
    First, there was the arrest of the 17 year old for tobacco possession. The article said nothing about any other reason for the arrest, not trespass, not belligerence, not any inappropriate behavior on the part of the 17-year old, nor his reasons for being in the school. You should also note that the above report says nothing about the 17-year old be charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest or obstructing an officer, unlike the rest of his family. Thus, if the report is correct, the only “charge” against the 17-year old is a citation for possessing tobacco products for which he was arrested. No criminal charges were leveled against him.
    Please read, and reread precisely what the above report says. Try to stop reading into articles that which isn’t there — the report is not supposed to be a work of fiction or philosophy giving you license to be creative. And reread my comments — carefully! Don’t creatively read what I’ve written either.
    That the factual article above may contain errors or is incomplete in some important sense is, of course, more than a possibility. However, I’m not privy to what those errors or unstated facts might be, and I’m not about to speculate.
    It is the specific arrest of the 17-year old that is my sole interest at this time.
    The behavior of the police and other participants contain separate, and likely interesting policy and legal issues, but these are also not the issues to which my original comments were directed.

  7. This year the Partnerships Committee is focusing on fostering better partnerships with parents. Arresting 17-year-olds who may or may not have had a reason to be on the presmises, and then tasering a mom who becomes agitated over the incident are not exactly the type of parent interaction we are looking for.
    Life may be peachy for you, David, as you repeatedly remind us. Bravo.
    For those who don’t look like you or have personal relations with school officials or have children with different colors and last names, it may not look quite so swell. Having had a son questioned – repeatedly – by the police at East when he was sitting in his car waiting to pick up his brother, didn’t exactly put me in a festive of pacifist frame of mind.
    Threat perception is in the eye of the beholder, and the fact that we have seen taser use more than once at Memorial speaks volumes for the level of comfort and skill with interacting with diverse groups of parents.

  8. The following from Channel 3000 adds more information, but doesn’t clear everything up.
    “The woman went to the school after her 17-year-old son — who isn’t a student there — was taken into custody by the school’s educational resource officer for having tobacco products on school property, police said.
    The teen allegedly showed up at the school saying that he wanted to register for classes. Because he has prior weapons offenses, the school liaison officer was asked to search him. Police said he was uncooperative, so he was handcuffed.”
    I would agree with Lucy that these are not the types of interactions anyone wants to see in schools. I’m also very skeptical of the value of tasers in a school setting.

  9. You are correct that I AM making the assumption that the 17 yr old did something to warrant his arrest (besides tobacco possession). Regardless, parents can’t just come in the building and GO OFF. You can make excuses for this kind of behavior by a parent and then hide it behind the race card either, Lucy. What does that acomplish?
    Where does it state that the kids and their mom were minorities? And this wasn’t outside the building, it was inside, which to me makes it a different ballgame. Besides which, who said life is peachy for me? I’ve had my son hassled too…so don’t go making assumptions. I’d gander that until ALL the facts come out, we’d best leave this thread alone.

  10. Hiding behind a race card? Perhaps. We’ll see. I do know that the overwhelming majority of issues raised regarding interactions between parents and schools comes from parents who are parents of color and/or low income and/or ELL. Or people who have witnessed questionable treatment of parents from the above groups.
    At the conference on disproportionate minority confinement that was held at East two years ago, a number of people who work with the criminal justice system, teachers, social workers, sociologists who study incarceration rates, and parents and community members talked about real and disturbing trends in our schools’ disparities in handling a range of acts by our youth. The taking into custody for tobacco products would be in line with the type of concerns raised at that conference and since.
    Hence my tendency to assume, rightly or wrongly, that the incident involved a family that was of color, low income, and/or ELL. If I am wrong and we are talking about a white, middle or upper class family, I will formally retract my comments and do so publicly.
    I’d rather be aware to the possibility that race is an issue. By raising it, there is a possibility to consider whether our system functions in the informed and equitable ways that we must operate if our schools are going to do well in the coming years.
    David, you are always going on about how wonderful school is for your kids. Again, I am happy for you. You have often regaled us with tales of how you have worked hard to cultivate teachers and principals. And that is a strategy that appears to have worked. My point is that families where one or both parents work two jobs and/or work second shift, are not as able to develop as close relationships with school officials. And when moms being tasered makes the news, it makes it even less likely that such families will take the risk of coming to school to advocate for their children.
    We get to talk about anything we want, David. It’s called freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech.

  11. See when I read the story, I didn’t, for a moment, stop to think about the color of the kid or his mom’s skin. I did stop to think that there had to be a reason that he was cuffed and searched. Now we know why: he had prior weapons violations. He could have been the white Maple Bluff kid from East involved in the gang shooting last year just as easily as he could have been a kid of color. The point being that in schools today, any kid who is a risk must be dealt with accordingly to ensure the safety of staff and students.
    I have no doubt that minority kids in Madison are incarcerated, searched, hassled etc. at a higher rate than others. Where I come from, minority kids were harrassed, beaten, arrested, and even killed by authorities- just for being out in public, let alone being prior offenders. Hell, minorities, period, got (and in many places, still get) this type of treatment and society looked the other way!
    But really, a parent can’t walk into a school and threaten the ERO and expect to just get away with it. This mother went ballistic and was dealt with accordingly. Is it sad that it ended this way? Of course:(
    And absolutely none of this has anything to do with my kids’ successes or my personal life. I make damn sure that my kids aren’t brought up in the type of society I was raised in by sending them to the MMSD. I know that, as a BoE member, you hear more about what’s wrong than about what’s right. And in this forum, there’s plenty of negativity- which is why I am liberal with my praise for our MMSD experiences. But don’t think for a second that every teacher and aide have been phenomenal. They haven’t, and my family has had some frustrations just like everyone else. I just tend to look at the macro because to get bogged down in the negativity of the micro is counterproductive to my kids’ success.

  12. Wait a minute…I think (maybe it’s old age) that I read in the paper that the school had “knowledge” that this young man was on campus to do harm to another individual? Of course, they weren’t certain, but I’d rather they err on the side of caution. The mother’s response is a WHOLE different issue and she should take responsibility for her actions (regardless of race). I can only guess that a taser was used because the officer could not calm her or restrain her any other way, but that is a guess. I don’t condone taser use, but I also don’t condone defiance of authority in a manner that is threatening.

  13. I think you have confused this with the East lockdown in October, where there was a credible threat of harm to a specific student. This is what the reports say. Whether the male was cuffed and searched because of his prior record or because he had tobacco (!!?????@?@?), I am not comfortable with the chain of events.
    The MPD press release:
    On 11/08/06 was determined that a 17-year-old male subject, who was not a student of the school, had been taken into custody by the ERO and was being cited/released on a municipal violation of possessing tobacco products.
    Capital Times November 9:
    …educational resource officer Shannon Blackamore had custody of the 17-year-old, who wasn’t a student at the school, for a tobacco violation.
    School officials, aware of the teen’s criminal history, called for officers, and Blackamore arrived and handcuffed and searched him.
    Wisconsin State Journal, November 9
    A Madison police officer used a Taser stun gun to subdue the mother of a boy who had been handcuffed at Memorial High School during a weapons search Wednesday, police said.
    The woman was taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment of injuries received before the use of the Taser, police said.
    Jacquelyn L. Lightfoot, 37, arrived at the school after a daughter, a Memorial student, called to say her 17-year old brother was in handcuffs, Madison police spokesman Howard Payne said.
    The 17-year old, who isn’t a Memorial student, went to the school around 11:30 a.m. under “questionable pretenses,” Paine said. The boy had been attending another school but told administrators he was there to register for classes, Payne said.
    Because the boy has a history of weapons offenses, school officials asked Shannon Blackamore, the Madison police educational resource officer, to search him. The boy said searching “would be a problem” and Blackamore placed him in handcuffs, Payne said.
    The boy’s sister saw her brother being detained and called Lightfoot, Payne said. Another sister joined the others in the educational resource office, where Blackamore was writing the boy a citation for tobacco possession.

  14. But, then why did the school call the police-certainly not for cigarettes but for trespass and he refused to go? Curiouser and curiouser!

  15. I am getting the uncomfortable feeling that all the facts are not out, and neither is the sequence of events.
    Even given what has been related thus far, however, and the history of disproportionality against minorities, was the situation (both regarding the student, and regarding the mother) handled in the appropriate way?
    I’m uncomfortable with the answers I’ve heard in prior incidents. The argument goes something like this.
    “We have reviewed the actions of the officer and found his conduct was within the policies that the police department has promulgated. Therefore, his actions are supported and we stand behind him.”
    Then, of course, we must recall the recent killing of Weston Principal John Klang by student Eric Hainstock. Under no circumstances must that happen here — or again.
    In this context, and given the alleged history of prior weapons offenses by this 17 year old, one could argue that it would gross negligence to not require that this student be searched for weapons — until trust could be reestablished. And it is beyond pale that this student (or his mother or siblings) should be surprised or offended that he might be asked to submit to a search given his history; refusal should not be an option — it should be understood.
    If it should be understood, then did someone neglect to inform the 17-year old that, given his priors, he should expect to be searched for weapons, and that he cannot refuse?
    Should the above expectaion be part of the written policy of the BOE? If so, then Policy 4400 seems to be the policy statement in need of amendment as it does not directly address these expectations.

  16. I think this is a good discussion. Safety in our schools is a huge issue. Two weeks ago, at the East High United meeting regarding bomb threats, a parent asked Alan Harris a question about weapons in schools, essentially asking “where will our enforcement efforts end? When we have metal detectors at every entrance?” Harris’ response included mention that there are specific students who are required to submit to being searched for weapons at any time. Presumably, said students have some prior offense history that necessitates these searches.
    Whether or not said students can refuse to be searched, I’ve no idea…but I do think their rights do NOT outweigh the rights of their fellow students to be in a safe school.

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