The family of an 11-year-old autistic boy in Colorado has filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County school district after the student was violently arrested and left in a car for hours. Police representatives say they were told he had stabbed another student with scissors, when in fact he had simply scratched someone with a pencil, according to reports.

A classroom spat in August 2019 resulted in the child, referred to as A.V. in the lawsuit, poking another student with a pencil and being referred to the school psychologist. The principal called resource officers Sidney Nicholson and Lyle Peterson and told them that A.V. had “stabbed another student.”

Nicholson says that at this point they were fine with A.V. not coming with them, saying, “If he wants to come, that’s fine; if he doesn’t, that’s fine, too.”

The account is different from what reportedly happened when the officers came to the classroom. The boy's lack of response to the pair’s efforts leads to a more than 3-minute struggle in which he begs them to stop hurting him, saying, “You’re choking me!”

Colorado police A Colorado police officer carries crime scene tape to close off the street on Jan. 5, 2013, in Aurora, Colorado. Photo: Getty Images

Nicholson tells A.V., “Well, I’ve asked you. Now I’m telling you. You’re just making this worse.” The sentiment is reiterated when A.V. is taken to the car, despite his protestations.

“It’s hurting me!” he shouts at one point. An officer can be heard responding, “I don’t understand.”

According to the lawsuit, A.V. was left in the car for two hours. He had repeatedly slammed his head against the Plexiglass.

“When we saw him, his forehead and arms were so swollen and bruised,” his mother, Michelle Hanson, told reporters. “A.V. doesn’t headbang. He must have been extremely dysregulated.”

His family says A.V. wouldn’t eat or speak for days, and still hasn’t returned to school. The parents had to retrieve him from a juvenile detention center on $25,000 bail. Their lawsuit against the Douglas County school district, which has been joined by the ACLU, is seeking undefined damages for the incident. 

“A.V. was — is — definitely traumatized. We all are,” Hanson said.

Lauren Childress, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, told the Washington Post they had received different information beforehand.

“In this particular incident, it was reported that a student had stabbed another student with a pair of scissors,” Childress said in a statement. “It was also reported that a staff member had been assaulted.”

The school district has not issued a statement, saying they are yet to be served with the lawsuit. The suit alleges that Peterson said afterward that Nicholson had done a “great” and “outstanding job” on “the highly stressful call.”