School Climate & Safety

Cleveland School Officer Put On Leave for Comments About Tamir Rice Shooting

By Evie Blad — January 11, 2016 1 min read
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The Cleveland district placed a school resource officer on administrative leave for online comments he made about Tamir Rice and Rice’s mother shortly after a prosecutor announced that a grand jury declined to indict two officers in the 12-year-old boy’s death.

Rice, who was a student in Cleveland schools, was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in November 2014 while holding a pellet gun in a public park.

Matt Cicero, 43, was placed on paid leave for “hurtful” comments he made on his Facebook page, which have since been deleted, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week:

“Cicero, in the post that was screen-grabbed by newsnet5, wrote that Tamir’s mother Samaria, who he called a derogatory name, should have taught her son not to play with fake guns. He also wrote that Tamir’s mother had financial motives, but did not elaborate. ‘You pull out a gun you get shot. I don’t have time to ask questions and coddle kids that wave guns around,’ he wrote. Cicero has been an armed mobile patrol officer for five years at the school district where Tamir was a student, Canfora said.”

“The comments posted are particularly insensitive, considering that Officer Cicero works for the school district that served Tamir Rice and his family,” Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon said in a statement. “Even as we grieve the tragic loss of this child to his family and to our entire school community, we are mindful of the very difficult job of our safety forces in our schools and our communities. Neither our citizens nor those who police our communities should be painted with a broad brush, and I don’t believe we will ever find solutions to such complex issues through Facebook posts—especially posts that further divide us.”

Cleveland schools have a districtwide social-emotional learning plan that includes classroom lessons on understanding and processing emotions and changes to discipline and safety procedures. Teachers there say they have used the strategy to help students process several high-profile police shootings.

The city’s police department has been singled out by the U.S. Department of Justice for using overly aggressive tactics, leading to a sense of distrust in low-income and predominantly African-American communities.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.