Video shows physical confrontation between 13-year-old MCSD student who lost leg, school contractor

After a judge’s order, the Muscogee County School District has released the surveillance video showing a physical confrontation between a 13-year-old student and a school behavior specialist that allegedly caused the teen’s leg to be amputated.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters on Aug. 1 ordered the school district to release the video to the Ledger-Enquirer within 10 days. The L-E sued the school district in January 2018, arguing the video is a public document.

The classroom surveillance video, without audio, shows some of what happened Sept. 12, 2016, between student Montravious Thomas and contracted behavior specialist Bryant Mosley at the AIM (Achievement, Integrity, Maturity) the alternative school program, which is for students with severe discipline violations.

A month later, after unsuccessful surgeries, the 13-year-old had his right leg amputated below the knee. His leg allegedly was broken and “unstabilized” from being body-slammed five times, according to the $25 million lawsuit Montravious’ mother filed in March 2017.

That lawsuit still is pending in Muscogee County State Court.

MCSD communications director Mercedes Parham emailed the Ledger-Enquirer links to five video clips from surveillance camera footage on Sept. 12, 2016, between 1:22 p.m. and 3:09 p.m., totaling 27 minutes and 7 seconds.

“One file was redacted to protect the identity of another student present within the footage,” Parham said in the email. “There is no audio to accompany the video files.”

The classroom video is 24 minutes long. These are the time stamps of key moments:

  • 6:11 — Mosley grabs Montravious and takes him to the floor. Mosley is on top of him for about 30 seconds.
  • 8:22 — Mosley grabs Montravious for a second time and takes him to the floor. Mosley holds him down with his hands or body for about 2 minutes.
  • 10:26 — Mosley grabs Montravious for a third time and takes him to the floor. Mosley lies on top of him for about 2 1/2 minutes.
  • 13:50 — Mosley and Montravious appear to have an off-camera confrontation. Mosley and Montravious fall into view seconds later. Montravious appears to hold a metal pole, later identified as a dustpan handle, with Mosley on top of him. A woman in the room attempts to grab the handle but is unsuccessful. Mosley continues to restrain Montravious. Another man in the room grabs the handle from Montravious at the 15 minute mark. Mosley restrains Montravious for a total of about 3 minutes.
  • 17:09 — Mosley and Montravious go off camera. Mosley appears to restrain Montravious for a fifth time and takes him to the floor.
  • 17:22 —Mosley gets off of Montravious, who remains on the floor. While largely obstructed from view, Montravious’ legs are visible. With his right shoe off, he sits up and appears to grab his right leg. He attempts to stand on both feet, but falls back to the floor.
  • 18:15 — Mosley helps Montravious stand and walks him to the opposite side of the room. Only their feet are visible.

The classroom video continues for about 6 more minutes. Montravious is not visible on camera again. Mosley is seen talking to a police officer and two other adults.

In addition to the classroom video, MCSD also released to the L-E four video clips showing Mosley carrying Montravious through the school and outside. A woman with what appears to be a two-way radio accompanies them.

Those video clips total 2 minutes and 21 seconds, but they are from different security cameras and overlap during some time periods, so the video clips show a time span from 3:09:10 p.m. to 3:09:55 p.m.

Case background

Surveillance video showing Mosley carrying Montravious out of the school and to the bus was leaked to the website AllOnGeorgia, but the surveillance video that recorded their confrontation in the classroom publicly disclosed until now.

Under the Georgia Open Records Act, the L-E asked the school district for the video in October 2016. MCSD refused to release it, saying that would be an invasion of the student’s personal privacy according to state law, and that the video is an educational record protected from disclosure under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly called FERPA.

Intended to guard student privacy, FERPA says schools may lose federal funding if they have “a policy or practice of releasing education records to unauthorized persons.”

The district has said it would release the footage if Montravious’ family agreed to its disclosure, but the family has refused to waive any privacy rights.

After negotiations over the video’s release failed to resolve the issue, the newspaper filed suit on Jan. 4, 2018. The case initially was assigned to Judge Arthur Smith III, but he recused himself, and it was reassigned to Peters.

Criminal investigation

In April 2018, the Columbus Police Department complied with the L-E’s open records request and released through the city attorney’s office its case file. CPD found no evidence of criminal misconduct.

CPD Lt. Consuelo Askew was working part-time as a MCSD security officer at the alternative school Sept. 12, 2016. That was the first day at AIM for Montravious, who was a seventh-grader at East Columbus Magnet Academy.

Askew led CPD’s investigation of the incident. Montravious’ lawyers called that a conflict of interest. They also filed a motion to add Askew as a defendant in their lawsuit. As of Thursday, Judge Ben Richardson hadn’t ruled on the motion.

In her final report, Askew described the five times Mosley made physical contact with Montravious as “restraints” and not body slams. She wrote that she met with District Attorney Julia Slater and Assistant DAs Don Kelly and George Lipscomb to discuss her findings.

CPD closed its investigation with no criminal charges filed.

Staff writer Tim Chitwood contributed to this story.

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Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.