UPDATE: Hamilton County Schools has released a statement regarding Tuesday’s student arrest at East Ridge High School and the student walkout that followed on Friday morning.
A spokesperson with Hamilton County Schools said, in part, “The information we learn from this week’s events, and the input we receive from those who add their voices to this discussion, will better inform us as we work internally, with our partners, and with our stakeholders to continue ensuring that all our children are well. We look forward to working with all who are part of this important conversation.”
According to the release, policies, procedures, and training concerning the roles and responsibilities of administrators and security officers in Hamilton County schools will be reviewed.
Read the full statement from Hamilton County Schools below:
The Hamilton County Schools community believes in the importance of safe and supportive environments as critical to seeing all students thrive and experience a future without limits. Earlier this year, our community held firm to this belief to fully fund a safety officer in every building in Hamilton County Schools (HCS). With this commitment comes the opportunity to confirm the shared beliefs of the school system and the Sheriff’s Office in the service to the children of our community.
This week, an incident at East Ridge High School resulted in questions and concerns from the community, and inside our district, about how we are putting our beliefs and commitments into action and their implications for our students. While there is still work to be done to gather all information about this week’s incident, our leadership is taking steps based on what we already know.
● We are reviewing our policies, procedures, and training concerning the roles and responsibilities of administrators and security officers in our schools.
● We are working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that we put students first as we work to keep our schools safe while treating all students with dignity and respect.
● We are providing clear and firm guidance to schools and law enforcement regarding our shared beliefs, commitments, shared protocols for engagement, and a continuous improvement process to foster student-centered relationships that support the safety and well-being of all HCS children.
As we move forward in this process, we are committed to learning and growing as we improve our shared responsibilities with law enforcement.
Earlier today, we heard from the students at East Ridge High School during a peaceful and respectful student-led demonstration in the school’s football stadium. Just as we listen to the concerns and thoughts from our community, it is important that we also hear the voices of those in our classrooms who are directly affected by our actions. We appreciate our students’ willingness to be a part of this conversation, and we value their input.
Providing a learning environment where all children feel safe, valued, and supported is a shared responsibility. The information we learn from this week’s events, and the input we receive from those who add their voices to this discussion, will better inform us as we work internally, with our partners, and with our stakeholders to continue ensuring that all our children are well. We look forward to working with all who are part of this important conversation.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: Chattanooga Attorney Jerry Tidwell released this statement regarding the incident:
“There are people making threats against my client on social media. The 15 second video being shown on social media is only a fraction of the event that is captured on my client’s body camera which has over one hour of video of this event. I ask those in the public threatening my client and his family to allow this matter to be investigated and cease making statements that scare some and inflame others without knowing the whole story.”
PREVIOUS UPDATE: The student seen on video in an altercation with an SRO Tuesday is facing multiple charges, according to an arrest report.
Eighteen-year-old Tauris Sledge has been identified as the student in the video, and was taken into custody on charges of Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest or Obstruction of Legal Process, and Assault.
According to the affidavit, SRO Tyler McRae and other school officials were called to the school gymnasium by the gym coach to assist with an “issue” he was having with Sledge Tuesday morning, eventually leading to Sledge being forced to the ground and pepper sprayed before being arrested.
The report said Tauris Sledge had told the gym coach he wasn’t feeling well and refused to participate in kickball for class, but later played basketball during free time. When the coach confronted Sledge about being apparently well enough to play basketball, he reportedly became aggressive and loud, calling the coach racist and other names.
While speaking with the student, Officer McRae reportedly moved to put his hand on his shoulder to pull him to the side when Sledge “bladed off” and warned McRae to remove his hand.
Sledge then reportedly “stepped up” to McRae before returning to the bleachers and putting his backpack on, ignoring commands from McRae to return.
According to the affidavit, the McRae then took Sledge by the arm to place him under arrest, which Sledge resisted.
McRae then grabbed Sledge by the hair and forced him to the stairs of the bleachers, as seen in a video gaining attention on social media.
The report continues to say Sledge allegedly ignored several more of McRae’s commands, including to remove his backpack so he could be handcuffed, prompting the SRO to pepper spray Sledge in the face to “gain pain compliance.”
The affidavit also says a PR-24 baton was used to “unlock his hands” during the altercation.
Sledge refused medical attention from the school but later told McRae he needed emergency medical attention, reportedly stating, “Yes when you were using the stick on me prying my arm I think you broke it.”
The student’s father arrived at the school shortly after and Sledge was taken to Hamilton County Jail. A nurse at the jail cleared Sledge of any broken bones.
Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett released the following statement regarding the incident:
“On Tuesday, September 20, 2022, one of our Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Deputies (SRD) assigned to East Ridge High School was called to the school’s gymnasium for the report of a disorder between an 18 year old student, Tauris Sledge, and a member of the school’s staff.
Upon request from school administrators for the student to be removed from the gym and proceed to the office, Sledge refused. The School Resource Deputy then attempted to place the student in custody for disorderly conduct. It was at this point a struggle began between Sledge and the SRD.
A brief cell phone video of the altercation surfaced yesterday on social media that presented only a short portion of the incident without any of the context that led to the event or the events that immediately followed.
As soon as the incident occurred, I was notified and immediately directed a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this event. This includes a review of all documentation, cell phone and school surveillance video, and the SRD’s body worn camera footage which documents approximately one hour of the event from the initial interaction with the SRD, the incident shown in the social media video, and the events that immediately followed.
I understand this is a sensitive issue to many in our community. Once we ensure we are in compliance with state law and have adequately removed the identity of uninvolved minors, which includes ensuring their faces are not identifiable, I intend to make this body worn camera video available to the public. The contents of the video will show the complete picture of the events that occurred that day surrounding this deputy’s use of force at East Ridge High School.”
The SRO’s attorney Jerry Tidwell issued the following statement on behalf of his client:
There are people making threats against my client on social media. The 15 second video being shown on social media is only a fraction of the event that is captured on my client’s body camera which has over one hour of video of this event. I ask those in the public threatening my client and his family to allow this matter to be investigated and cease making statements that scare some and inflame others without knowing the whole story.
Stay with the Local 3 News app for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is reviewing the conditions surrounding a viral video where a student is seen being pulled by his hair and backpack by an SRO.
In several videos taken at East Ridge High School, the student can be seen being pulled onto bleacher stairs by an officer. The unnamed student is heard saying “I’m not resisting” several times during the altercation.
The clip has been shared nearly 600 times on Facebook.
The circumstances of the video are currently unknown, but a spokesperson with Hamilton County Schools confirmed they are aware of the situation and are investigating, and said, in part, “we will review the information to make sure we are taking all available steps to ensure a safe learning environment where all students feel accepted and welcomed.”
Read the full statement from Hamilton County Schools below:
“The safety of students and staff is the highest priority for Hamilton County Schools. We are aware of a situation at East Ridge High School today involving the interaction of a student and the school’s School Resource Deputy. HCS is working with school administrators and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office to gather information about the incident. When that process is complete, we will review the information to make sure we are taking all available steps to ensure a safe learning environment where all students feel accepted and welcomed.”
Stay with Local 3 News as we learn more about this developing story.