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Apr. 04, 2010
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(April 3) -- When 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez was caught doodling on her desk at Junior High School 190 in Queens, New York, she expected detention and an afternoon on desk-cleaning duty. Instead, she was arrested, led out of her school in handcuffs and detained at a local police precinct for hours, she said.
Two months after the incident, Gonzalez and her mother, Maraima Comacho, are suing the New York City Education Department and the New York Police Department for $1 million in damages, claiming excessive use of force and violation of the girl's rights in the ordeal, which Comacho has called a "nightmare."
"We want to stop this from happening to other young children in the future," the family's lawyer, Joseph Rosenthal, told the New York Daily News.
Gonzalez describes the ordeal as traumatizing and excessive, saying that after her Spanish teacher caught her doodling on her desk with erasable green marker, she was "physically dragged by a teacher and an assistant principal" to the dean's office, where school safety officials searched her by placing "their hands inside the rear and front pockets of her jeans." Police were then summoned to arrest her.
Gonzalez told the Daily News she broke down as she was led out of her school in handcuffs.
"I started crying, like, a lot," said said. "I made two little doodles. ... It could be easily erased. To put handcuffs on me is unnecessary."
The legal papers filed by Rosenthal said Comacho was not permitted to accompany her daughter to the precinct and was instead told to go home and wait for a call. The documents also said that Gonzalez was detained in "an enclosed room" at the precinct and handcuffed to a pole for more than two hours. Video From Feb. 7Watch the latest news video at video.foxnews.com In February, New York City officials acknowledged Gonzalez's arrest was a mistake, with a City Education spokesman saying, "Based on what we've seen so far, this shouldn't have happened."
Police spokesman Paul Browne told the Daily News that officers should have used better judgment after being called by the school.
"Even when we're asked to make an arrest, common sense should prevail, and discretion used in deciding whether an arrest or handcuffs are really necessary," said police spokesman Paul Browne.
Now Comacho wants the City to pay for their mistake, to the tune of $1 million for the ordeal that led to her daughter's suspension and a trip to family court, where Gonzalez was given eight hours of community service and ordered to write a book report and an essay about what she learned from the experience.
The suit says officers "knew, or should have known" that Gonzalez had simply doodled with a "soluable, erasable marker."
What were the doodled words that led to her arrest?
"I love my friends Abby and Faith," Gonzalez said she wrote, adding "Lex was here. 2/1/10" and a smiley face.