The website All On Georgia posted “exclusive surveillance video” from “sources in the school system” that reportedly shows behavioral specialist Bryant Mosley carrying 13-year-old Montravious Thomas and then throwing him over his shoulder before loading him onto a school bus.
The story, posted Sunday by retired Ledger-Enquirer columnist Richard Hyatt, also contains information from a report allegedly filed by Mosley after he restrained Montravious. The teen was “spitting, cursing and making threats,” Hyatt wrote, and “grabbed the handle of a dustpan and began to swing it wildly.”
According to the story, Mosley reported he then used a technique known as a “horizontal hold,” in which he took the student to the ground and held him down for six minutes each time. The third time, he stopped after 10 seconds when Thomas said his leg was hurt, Hyatt wrote.
The story doesn’t explain who recorded the video or how it was obtained. Video of the alleged body-slamming hasn’t been posted.
On Oct. 18, hours before Montravious’ right leg was amputated below the knee in Atlanta, the Ledger-Enquirer filed an open records request for, among other things, video of Thomas being restrained and being put on the school bus.
On Friday, Valerie Fuller, director of communications and open records requests for the Muscogee County School District, released an email statement that “witnesses indicate that the child was up and walking and not in distress following the administered restraint.” She also wrote that the school made “multiple attempts” to contact the teen’s parent by phone after the incident.
On Monday, after the video was posted on All on Georgia, MCSD lawyer Greg Ellington sent an email denying the Ledger-Enquirer’s open records request for video.
Ellington cited Georgia Code “50-18-72(a)(1),(2) and/or (37)” as the reason for denying the Ledger-Enquirer’s request.
OCGA 50-18-72(a)(1) refers to federal records possessed by state agencies and required by the federal law to be kept confidential.
OCGA 50-18-72(a)(2) allows for the exclusion of private medical records.
OCGA 50-18-72(a)(37) refers to “any record that would not be subject to disclosure, or the disclosure of which would jeopardize the receipt of federal funds.”
David E. Hudson, General Counsel for the Georgia Press Association, said the videos and reports requested by the newspaper are not exempt from disclosure based on federal law.
“The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act, commonly known as the ‘Buckley Amendment,’ has been construed by the Georgia Supreme Court as not to apply to open records requests like these under Georgia law,” he said. “The Georgia Supreme Court instructed that the Buckley Act applies to student academic performance, financial aid or scholastic probation records, but not records pertaining to other events and occurrences in which a student was involved.”
Hudson also said the other reasons cited by the school board attorney for nondisclosure also are inapplicable. “The newspaper’s request is not for medical records, and the incident described in the records is not exempt under notions of privacy rights,” he said. “The Georgia appellate courts have held on numerous occasions that documents concerning a matter of public interest override an individual’s claim to privacy.”
Renee Tucker, the lawyer representing Montravious and his family, has also requested videos and documents from the district. On Tuesday, she told the Ledger-Enquirer Tuesday she hasn’t received anything.
But based on the leaked video, Tucker said, “We believe that the video, without dispute, contradicts the statement from the MCSD. It is clear that the MCSD employees and Mr. Mosley knew that Montravious was seriously injured and unable to walk on his own, and despite that knowledge, they all violated their duty to obtain emergency medical attention.”
Asked for the school district’s reaction to the leaked video and whether it is authentic, Fuller didn’t answer the questions and responded Tuesday instead with the same written statement she released last week.
As for MCSD’s contention that multiple attempts were made to contact Montravious’ mother the day of the incident, Tucker said, “We are not aware of any evidence showing their efforts to reach his mother. Regardless of any effort to reach his mother, emergency rooms operate 24 hours a day and 911 is accessible 24 hours a day.
“We know that his mother completed necessary documents for the MCSD identifying the hospital that he was to be taken to for immediate medical attention. At the end of the day, there is no excuse for the conduct evidenced by the adults in that video.”
The student has been hospitalized since the Sept. 12 incident, and his mother lost her job at a temporary agency because she has spent much of her time by her child’s side, Tucker has said.
Fuller has said Mosley is no longer providing services to MCSD and was employed by Mentoring and Behavioral Services when the incident occurred. MBS, according to its website, is headquartered in Columbus and also serves Phenix City. MBS “specializes in individualizing holistic behavior approaches to produce a healthy and productive environment that fosters positive growth,” the company’s website says.
Tucker is an attorney with the law firm Forrest B. Johnson & Associates, which has offices in Columbus, Atlanta and Macon. She has said she sent the Muscogee County School District an ante litem notice “that had a number of $5 million.” An ante litem notice is required when someone intends to file a lawsuit against a governmental agency. She also plans to sue Mosley and MBS, Tucker has said.
Robert Poydasheff Jr., the lawyer representing MBS, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email last week, “We are still in the early stages of investigating the events which occurred, and I have advised my client not to comment or speculate on the matter until we have completed our investigation. At this point there is very little information to work from.
“We are certainly very concerned for Montravious, and our hearts go out to him. He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Poydasheff said David Mize is representing Mosley. Mize hasn’t been reached for comment.
Staff writer Sarah Robinson contributed to this report.