Families Sue Whitehall Police, School District After Melee at Game

Attorneys claim two students were left with serious injuries

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The families of two students in the Whitehall-Coplay School District are suing police, school officials and the mayor of Whitehall, accusing police officers of using excessive force to remove students from a basketball game and leaving the students with serious injuries.

The lawsuit says the incident happened in January. It claims Whitehall police tried to remove a student from the gym after a confrontation with a school official.

A melee ensued, and four teens were arrested. Attorney Matthew Mobilio said two of the four teens suffered head injuries during the arrest.

"Another officer pushing a student down a flight of stairs, and all of it culminating with an officer putting a chokehold on a 110-pound child lifting him up by his throat and then violently slamming his head onto the floor," Mobilio said at a rally Monday.

Mobilio has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the teens. Monday, the suit was expanded to include the Whitehall-Coplay School District, superintendent Lorie Hackett and athletic director Robert Hartman, as well as the mayor of Whitehall.

NBC10 attempted to reach all the defendants in the lawsuit. District Superintendent Hackett responded: “While our District is not able to comment on pending litigation, we want our students, staff, parents, guardians, and others to know that we are committed to treating each student with fairness, respect, and dignity. We know that this is an important topic for our community, and are empathetic to our community's concerns.”

Mobilio says the families want armed officers out of the schools and body cameras for local police. They also want a policy banning chokeholds on students.

"Black children should not have to fear for their safety in their own school," said Alicia Ruthraufa, a participant in a rally supporting the teens Monday. "It’s absurd. It should never have happened."

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