Student accuses school police officer of assault

Mural on the side of Benjamin Franklin High School.

A Benjamin Franklin High School police officer has been transferred while the district investigates allegations that he assaulted a student, a district spokesman said.

The Philadelphia Student Union said in a statement Wednesday that the incident happened last Thursday, when junior Brian Burney tried to use a school restroom without a hall pass. The union said school Police Officer Jeffrey Maciocha punched and pushed the student and put him in a choke hold. Burney was diagnosed with a concussion as a result, it said.

The union published a link to a 13-second video of the officer restraining Burney. In the video, Maciocha appears calm as the student struggles and shouts obscenities.

While the Student Union described the officer's restraint of Burney as a "chokehold," School District spokesman Fernando Gallard disputed that, saying it was "clearly a restraining hold and not a choke hold."

According to Gallard, the student, a junior, tried to use the restroom without a hall pass and when he was told he needed one, he became "very angry." Gallard said the student cursed, called the officer names, and threw an orange at his head.

As the student approached the officer, he was placed in a restraining hold, Gallard said.

While Burney was being restrained, the student "voluntarily" began banging his head on the floor, an act that was witnessed by the school's principal, Gallard said.

"After all this occurred, the student is declaring he was assaulted by the school police officer," Gallard said. "We are now conducting an investigation because we take those accusations seriously."

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