Tennessee dad James Howe was arrested for disorderly conduct while picking his children up from school. Howe did not bring a weapon to the South Cumberland Elementary School, threaten anyone, or cause any type of scene, according to a video taken during the encounter. The father walked to the school and was told he would have to wait in a line of cars until all the students were released, even though he was on foot.
Jim Howe was arrested by South Cumberland Elementary School resource officer Avery Aytes. Howe’s fiancé recorded the entire incident, which included a 6-minute long conversation about the new school pickup policy. During the recorded exchange, the walking Tennessee father does not appear to make any type of threatening gesture or raise his voice significantly.
An excerpt from the Tennessee school arrest comments made by Howe reads:
During the South Cumberland Elementary School resource officer Aytes told Jim Howe that he was “difficult” and “childish.” The parent was understandably upset because he wanted to pick his children up from school since the educational day was over.
School resource officer Aytest had this to say before placing Howe in handcuffs:
And just like that, simple school pick up turned into a cuffed and stuffed situation. According to the now viral video of the Tennessee Cumberland County School District arrest, the resource officer wanted Howe to sign a form to permit the children to walk unsupervised from school. The children are between the ages of 8 and 14 and are typically picked up by their parents.
The new school district pick up policy reportedly had traffic backed up over a mile away from the campus. To avoid the growing mound of traffic, Howe and his fiancé decided to just walk the short distance to school and pick up the kids that day. The Tennessee dad has recently contacted the county sheriff’s office to discuss the safety aspects to the new school pick up policy. The line of parents reportedly stretched along a busy highway, creating what many parents believed was a hazard for both them and school buses.
Before he was handcuffed, Howe cited Tennessee statute which reportedly states that children are to be released from school to their parents within a reasonable amount of time after the day ends, noting a 15-minute time frame. Howe asked the school resource officer politely if he could give the house keys to his fiancé so the woman would not be locked out of the home, and the officer refused. According to Howe’s typed comments at the end of the video, an incident with his special needs daughter last school year also caused him some concern. According to the Tennessee man, the girls was left crying in front of the class for more than an hour for an unspecified reason and was not allowed to call her parents. The alleged bullying incident which supposedly involved a school administrator was resolved without any legal action, that will apparently not be the case this time
Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess stated during an interview with local news station WATE-TV that officer Aytes was merely doing his job and enforcing the law. But, the sheriff also noted that in principle, he also agrees with Jim Howe. “On the other hand, the school system needs to realize you can’t make a black and white law.”
Sheriff Burgess agreed that the new school pick up policy is prompting safety concerns due to the long line cars along the highway near the South Cumberland School District complex. Once the law enforcement official finishes reviewing the school pickup policy, he is going to recommend some changes to district administrators.
Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Donald Andrews defended both officer Aytes arrest of Jim Howe and the new pick up policy. Andrews stated all students that are deemed “walkers” are the last to be released from the school and placed in a “holding area.” Although the school administrator admitted he did not know what Tennessee state law said in relation to the release of children to parents at the end of the school day. “We aren’t running a dictatorship here,” the school official said when noting the district was willing to work with parents who have “special circumstances.”
After being released from jail, Jim Howe very reasonably stated, “You don’t need a reason as a parent to go get your children. They are our children.” During an interview with local news media the Tennessee dad also said, “If not for policy, we would have chaos, and we don’t need chaos at the school. But we also don’t need an overzealous deputy setting an example in front of kids.”
Jim Howe does not regret the stand he took that ultimately led to a ride in a police cruiser, according to his comments to The Blaze. The Tennessee father plans on fighting the disorderly conducts charges levied against him and considering filing a lawsuit over the arrest.
Below is the video clip of this incident:
You can also watch this longer video of the incident which includes reactions by others who witnessed the arrest.
On August 15th James Howe filed a lawsuit against this officer, the school, and the police department. To view the complaint filed by Howe in Federal court please click the following:Howe Lawsuit Complaint To view the demand for a jury trial click the following: Document 86 Jury Trial Demand To view the most recent document which is a court memo with the decision of the judge in response to the defendants request for summary judgement in this case click the following: Document 92 Memorandum Opinion Of The Court.
The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred Nov. 14, 2013, at South Cumberland Elementary School, following a change in school procedures for parent pick-up that led to long lines of traffic and extended waiting times as the new procedures were put into place. A video of the arrest was made by Amanda Long, Howe’s then-fiancée and now wife, and Howe posted it to YouTube and it was shared on social media, going viral.
The suit, filed by James Howe, alleges false arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive force and retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights, and seeks punitive damages of $1 million, and additional punitive damages of $100,000 for false arrest. The suit also alleges denial of the fundamental right to care and control children.
Defendants named in the suit are Avery Ayets, deputy with the Cumberland County Board of Education serving as School Resource Officer at South Cumberland Elementary; South Cumberland Elementary; Principal Darrell Threet; Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department; Director of Schools Donald Andrews; Cumberland County Board of Education; and Cumberland County. The suit was filed Aug. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
According to the lawsuit, Howe arrived at the school Nov. 12 to pick up his children and noted the new pickup system had resulted in congestion and long lines of traffic lining up along Lantana Rd. on the shoulder.
“Rather than add to the chaos and traffic congestion, Mr. Howe parked his vehicle in the school overflow lot as he had been doing for years, exited his vehicle and walked to the front of the school,” the suit states. There, the suit states Aytes met Howe, who asked for his children to be released to him, but Aytes refused. Howe then says he attempted to give permission for a friend who was near the front of the line of cars to pick up his children, but Aytes again refused and ordered Howe to return to his vehicle and get in line. Howe complied.
The next day, Howe said he contacted Sheriff Butch Burgess to discuss the “Lantana Rd. Policy,” as the new student pick-up procedures are called in the suit, speaking with him several times prior to the incident on Nov. 14.
“Over the course of these discussions, they discussed that, as an alternative to waiting in the line of cars, Mr. Howe could simply walk to the school and pick his children up on foot, leaving his truck out of the equation all together,” the suit states. “Sheriff Burgess approved this plan over the telephone and said that it was a good idea and that he wished that more parents would do the same thing because it would reduce the amount of traffic congestion and delay.”
Howe also says he told Burgess of his concerns Aytes would arrest him for not complying with school procedures and the “Lantana Rd. Policy.”
On Nov. 14, Howe walked to South Cumberland Elementary, entered the school office and asked for his children. He says he was confronted by Aytes, who said Howe could not have his children.
“Mr. Howe calmly attempted to explain that he had a legal right to have his children back once school had been dismissed for the day,” the suit states.
The school offered a release form which would have authorized the school to release the children to leave school on foot on their own, without parental supervision, but Howe did not wish the school to release his children on their own. He declined to sign the release form. Howe then told Aytes that, in his legal opinion, he had the right to have his children back within a reasonable time after school dismissal.
Principal Darrell Threet entered the office during the exchange and was aware of the dispute, the suit states.
Aytes then arrested Howe on the charge of disorderly conduct. The affidavit of complaint signed by Aytes stated Howe was “making unreasonable noise, arguing, being disruptive, refusing to follow rules. His actions prevented others from carrying on lawful activities.”
Howe contends Aytes purposely tightened the handcuffs greater than was necessary in order to inflict injury and pain, and that the arrest had no lawful basis.
“To attempt to justify the arrest, Deputy Aytes then charged Mr. Howe with the Tennesse state law crime of ‘Disorderly Conduct,’ … Mr. Howe did not make an unreasonable noise which prevented others from carrying on lawful activities on either Nov. 12, 2013, or Nov. 14, 2013.”
Howe posted $300 bond the same day and after being taken into custody. The charge was dismissed in January.
Howe says that the school system has insisted on maintaining the “Lantana Rd. Policy” since this time, and continues to refuse to release children to parents who do not comply with the policy.
“In essence, the Lantana Rd. Policy holds children hostage after the end of the school day, using the threat of an arrest by Deputy Aytes to force parents to comply with the Lantana Rd. Policy. If parents refuse to comply with this dangerous and inefficient Lantana Rd. Policy, their children are held captive by the school,” the suit states.
Following the incident on Nov. 14, the school system did make changes to the traffic flow at the school to reduce the number of cars waiting on the shoulder of Lantana Rd. to enter the school parking lot. In December, it was reported waiting time from entering the line to picking up a student and exiting the parking lot was about 15 to 16 minutes.
Howe contends in the suit he was arrested without probable cause of any criminal offense and that Aytes was aware he lacked basis for arrest Mr. Howe.
The suit also states Aytes had not completed a 40-hour training program for school resource officers, something the agreement between the school system and the Sheriff’s Department required.
“This training would have taught Deputy Aytes that an SRO’s primary function is education and safety, and that while an SRO can serve in a law enforcement function under appropriate circumstances, arresting a parent simply for expressing an opinion about his rights is illegal and inappropriate.”
Howe also contends Burgess took no steps to prevent Aytes’ misconduct, though Howe had shared his concerns with him prior to the incident.
Howe says his damages include deprivation of his liberty, having to post a bond, emotional distress, reputational damage and that he suffered economic losses due to the arrest in the form of lost earnings. Howe also says the use of excessive force, by over-tightening the handcuffs, caused him to suffer pain and injury.
Howe has requested that a jury hear the case.