The newly minted junior at Liberty Preparatory School was perhaps still on summer break schedule during class last week. His teacher couldn't wake him up. Even summoning the interim principal wasn't enough to get the teenager to open his eyes.
So the Smithville, Ohio, educators called for the school resource officer, a part-time member of the local police named Maryssa Boskoski, whose idea of an impromptu alarm could cost her job and maybe even her freedom.
As a classroom full of students looked on, she reached into her holster and pulled out her department-issued Taser, according to Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS. Then she removed the firing cartridge and pulled the trigger.
The ensuing electric buzz startled the student awake and stunned a northeast Ohio charter school community that felt a weapon used to subdue combative criminals shouldn't be used to rouse a drowsy student.
A Taser is a brand of electronic stun gun that fires probes that stick in a person's skin and transmit 50,000 volts of electricity, along with a painful, paralyzing shock. But if the probe-containing cartridge is removed, the Taser can arc, emitting a visible bolt of electricity, an audible buzz and a painful jolt if it touches someone.
School officials notified parents of what they deemed an inappropriate use of the stun gun in a letter that did not reveal the identity of the student.
“While on our School campus, a Smithville officer attempted to wake a sleeping student by deploying a taser near the vicinity of the student,” school leaders said in a letter obtained by WTMJ. “At no time was any student in any kind of danger.”
Boskoski, who is also a member of the Air Force Reserve, works part time for the Smithfield Police Department. She could not immediately be reached for comment.
But Smithfield Police Chief Howard Funk says that Boskoski was previously disciplined for a separate Taser-related incident a month ago. Funk told the news station he was “disappointed that this took place.” Boskoski is on unpaid leave.
An investigation was ongoing, according to the Associated Press, and Funk said he would meet with the Smithville solicitor to see if charges should be filed. Funk did not immediately return a message from The Washington Post seeking comment.
In the previous case, Boskoski didn't remove the cartridge from her Taser before doing what officers refer to as a spark test. When she pulled the trigger, the Taser fired near another officer.
Although originally marketed as less-than-lethal alternatives to officers pulling firearms, Tasers have been linked to dozens of deaths, according to a 2015 Washington Post report:
Research shows that when used correctly, the devices are generally safe and prevent injuries to both police officers and civilians. But when Tasers are used excessively or if officers don’t follow department policy or product guidelines, the risk of injury or death can increase, according to company product warnings and police experts.
Taser issues can be particularly thorny for school resource officers. The combative people they encounter are often children, and officers' use of force can face additional scrutiny.
For example, officers said they couldn't subdue a girl who got into a fight at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Pinellas Park, Fla.
Video captured by bystanders captured an officer shooting his Taser at the fleeing girl after she screamed, “Get off me!”
“Once they [students] get it in their heads that that’s how they’re going to be, then certainly it makes for a tough situation,” a school spokesman said, according to the Kansas City Star.