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Family considers legal action after body camera video shows handcuffs being used on boy with autism

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DENTON, Texas — A North Texas school district is facing scrutiny after the release of body camera video that shows an interaction between a resource officer and a boy with autism in April. It happened at Alexander Elementary School in Denton, Texas. The boy’s parents say they’re outraged and hurt.

Emily Brown, the boy’s mother, said her heart hurts when she watches the video.

“You’re flooded with so many different emotions. Anger, hurt and just lonesomeness,” said Brown.

The video shows her son, Thomas, who has autism, being backed into a cubby. Police said the 10-year-old was being disruptive and swinging a computer mouse near other kids. Eric Coulston, the school resource officer, is seen in the video picking Thomas up, as he shouts and struggles.

Robert Brown said Coulston carried Thomas to a quiet place called a “Soar Room” and “face-planted” him.

“It makes me feel helpless,” said Robert Brown.

In the video, the student with special needs is handcuffed and pinned to the ground. Police said Thomas kicked and spit on the officer.

“He’s scared. He’s got a lot of anxiety because the very people that I told him to trust, he can’t,” said Emily Brown.

Officials with the Denton Independent School District said protocol was followed. City officials said a review found “no violations” to laws or policies, and “the decision to use restraints was made only when the child posed a serious threat to himself or others. Once the child was calm, the restraints were removed.”

“It’s disgusting that this officer is put there to protect and serve our children, and he abused a disabled little boy. He showed no compassion in that room,” said Emily Brown.

The family is considering taking legal action against the police department and district.

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