Claim of violent dispute over phone one of many incidents prompting changes at Greco Middle School

8 On Your Side

TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. (WFLA) – Witness claims about an incident at Greco Middle School that left a teenager bruised and shaken are refuted by the district, but additional staffing and new procedures have been put in place in response to recent violence.

87 students have been involved in fights during one 31-day period, according to a district spokesperson, who said, “many of our children are not emotionally equipped to handle their feelings and may not know how to resolve conflict in a positive manner.”

Witnesses and the parent of a 13-year-old girl claim a security officer used “unnecessary force” to resolve a late September conflict between the teen and a teacher.

Witnesses said the incident started in the cafeteria, but parent Blanca Torres said she saw it in an outdoor area in front of the Fowler Street school.

“He grabbed [the student] and threw her to the ground,” Torres said. “It wasn’t right.”

The teen’s mother Jennifer Mercado said her daughter was in handcuffs when she arrived at the school, and she provided several pictures that she claims are injuries caused by the altercation.

“My daughter was being pushed into a black metal gate at the front of the school,” Mercado said. “With two security guards holding her as she’s being handcuffed with her book bag on her back.”

Hillsborough County School District spokesperson Tanya Arja refuted the witnesses’ claims, saying the officer did not use unnecessary force.

“For the child’s safety, our officer followed all training protocols and did not use undue force,” Arja said. “There is much more to this incident that we cannot share due to state and federal student privacy laws.”

Temple Terrace spokesperson Laurie Hayes said the Temple Terrace Police investigation determined “the security officer’s action were not deemed to involve excessive force and no charges are expected to be filed against the officer.”

Hayes could not provide a copy of the police report at this time.

Arja said the district has taken a number of steps to address the violence at the school.

“We have provided additional staffing supports at Greco Middle to focus our efforts on educating students on the proper way to handle conflict,” Arja said. “We are implementing new procedures as well as social-emotional supports and positive behavior supports to consistently reinforce the behaviors we expect of all students.”

In the case involving Mercado’s daughter, Mercado said the day after she filed a complaint against the security officer, investigators told her, her daughter could face assault charges.

“We’re waiting to see what happens next,” Mercado said. “My daughter still gets headaches. She’s traumatized.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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