No charges for deputy seen in viral video slamming Liberty High student to ground

A school resource officer in Osceola County who slammed a 16-year-old student onto the ground in a Liberty High School breezeway will not face charges.

The incident, which happened in January, was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and turned over to Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell in March.

Deputy Ethan Fournier was placed on paid leave after a video of the incident went viral and made national headlines.  The deputy was trying to stop the student, identified as 11th-grader Taylor Bracey, from fighting with someone else, according to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office.

After forwarding the investigation to the FDLE, Sheriff Marcos Lopez stated that there is "absolute zero tolerance of use-of-force by any of our deputies."

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In the weeks that followed, community activists held rallies calling for accountability.  

During her news conference, Worrell said Deputy Fournier acted in accordance with his training and did not violate any laws. However, she did express concern and anger after viewing the video and she did not mince words when calling for the need to improve how SROs respond in such situations. 

Citing a study by the University of Florida Policy and Research Center, Worrell said students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to be harshly punished for ordinary childhood misbehavior.

"School resource officers should be better equipped to work with all children.  A portion of the millions we spend yearly on school policing should be allocated to training, body-worn cameras for SROs, and mental health services for students in crisis," Worrell said during an afternoon news conference.

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She said a body-worn camera might have provided more transparency in this case and adequate mental health resources could help to prevent these types of interactions between students and officers.

"Every SRO should be required to go through crisis intervention training," Worrell added. "There are now more police officers working in our schools than school nurses.  The number of police officers in schools is more than double the number of social workers and psychologists.  If we want to see less of what happened here, and more services geared at crisis intervention and not criminalizing childhood behavior, our community must come together and demand the change our children deserve in order that they can all feel safe in their schools."

Fournier has been with the agency for 10 years and has had one prior complaint involving property damage, according to the Sheriff's Office.

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