COLUMBIA —The family of a Hickman High School student who was injured while attempting to break up a fight has expressed concern about the return of a school resource officer. The family issued a news release Thursday stating that the officer, who is still under investigation, shouldn't be back at the school.
Columbia Police are investigating whether School Resource Officer Mark Brotemarkle's use of force in breaking up the Oct. 15 fight was excessive.
"We don't think it's fair that the police officer should be there while the investigation is still under way and is supposed to take five weeks, " said James Hacking III, attorney for the student, Diamond Thrower. "There is no compelling reason for him to be there."
A student recorded the fight that occurred Oct. 15 and posted the video on YouTube. Thrower's mentor, Ray Magruder, said she told him she was attempting to break up the fight when Brotemarkle threw her to the ground.The throw was recorded on the video.
On Oct. 17, Hickman officials were told that Brotemarkle would not return as Hickman's resource officer until the investigation was complete. Following a decision from the Police Department, Brotemarkle returned to the high school on Monday.
"I know that they have concerns. We have met with (Thrower) and discussed how to make her feel safe. Everyone involved feels horrible," said Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent of secondary education for Columbia Public Schools.
Thrower's family, Magruder, Hacking and school officials met Wednesday evening to discuss Thrower's return to school. Thrower did not attend school until Thursday.
Thursday morning, Hacking wrote a letter to Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner requesting Brotemarkle be reassigned. At the time of the news release on Thursday, the family had not been contacted by Columbia police.
Columbia police Capt. Zim Schwartze declined to comment on the news release written by Hacking.
The news release also expressed concerns about who decided Brotemarkle should return to Hickman. The release states that Brown told the family the Police Department made the decision. Magruder said he was previously told that the school district was insisting upon Brotemarkle's return.
"We were receiving inconsistent information in regards to the presence of the officer at Hickman," Magruder said.
In an interview Oct. 22, Schwartze said the decision for Brotemarkle's return was made according to policy. Officers are to stay in the position unless there is a serious incident, such as an officer shooting, she said. Questions of force that was excessive does not fall under a serious incident, Schwartze said. The Police Department has limited school resource officers and the decision was the best for the school and students, Schwartze said.
A news release written by Interim Chief Capt. Tom Dresner on Oct. 20 said: "The Professional Standards Unit would be conducting extensive interviews, collecting evidence and examining in great detail the circumstances and video that surround this incident."
The police department has been in daily contact with either the family of Thrower or Magruder since the fight. Magruder previously praised the Police Department for its willingness to listen and hold open dialogue with the family over their concerns.
As of Thursday, Thrower's family had no immediate plans for legal action, Hacking said.
"We are taking one step at a time," Hacking said. "We're not jumping ahead."
Brown said she agrees that the investigation needs to "take its course," and the focus should turn to helping students solve their differences without resorting to violence.
"We have to look at what we can do to help students understand, to help young people understand that the way to solve problems is not through fighting," she said. "When a fight happens adults are to handle it, and when adults intervene, it has to stop."