Kandas Holmes-Barnes filed a lawsuit in late January for $2.4 million collectively against Columbia Public Schools and the Columbia Police Department as a response to the wrongful arrest of her daughter at Smithton Middle School in January 2019.

Holmes-Barnes maintains her daughter was the subject of discrimination and said detrimental effects on her daughter include mental health diagnoses, cyberbullying and emotional distress.

Smithton School Resource Officer Tony Ash arrested Holmes-Barnes’ daughter on assault charges on Jan. 10, 2019, after school officials told him she attacked a student who ended up being treated for injuries. It was later determined to be a case of mistaken identity. Holmes-Barnes’ daughter, then 14, was released following a night in juvenile detention after police received exculpatory evidence.

Holmes-Barnes filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in May 2019.

Holmes-Barnes filed the civil lawsuit Jan. 27 in Boone County. She is representing herself.

“Just because I don’t have a lawyer right now, it doesn’t mean I don’t want one. I’m looking for the right one,” Holmes-Barnes said.

She said she was originally filing the case through Chapel Law Group but parted ways with the firm.

Holmes-Barnes said she is doing this for her kids.

“I have to be my children’s voice,” she said.

Both Columbia police and Columbia Public Schools conducted internal investigations following the event.

Following the police internal investigation in September, spokesman Jeff Pitts confirmed in an email that Ash, Smithton’s resource officer, had “received discipline.” Columbia Public Schools said it found no board policy violations in its investigation.

Neither the district nor the police department would comment on Holmes-Barnes’ lawsuit.

  • Education reporter, spring 2020, studying investigative journalism and sociology. Reach me at jessica.blake@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Galen Bacharier is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. He has previously reported on state government and higher education. He can be reached at gbacharier@mail.missouri.edu.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is a city editor at the Columbia Missourian. She oversees coverage of education. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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