DA’s Office Not Pursuing Charges in Second VCMS Assault Allegation

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Statement from the Office of District Attorney Mike Waters:

On December 16, 2019, I learned a parent had made more allegations about the use of inappropriate force against school resource officer, Deputy Warren Durham and Assistant Principal Kevin Ross. These allegations were first detailed in a short statement written by the female juvenile student and provided by the minor child’s mother to the Vance County Sheriff’s Office late in the day on Friday, December 13, 2019, after a video of Warren Durham became widespread through social media and news outlets.

At the request of Vance County Sheriff Curtis Brame and the mother of the minor child, I undertook a review of the evidence provided in this case including the minor child’s initial statement, the statement taken by Vance County Sheriff’s Office investigators, medical records, and video footage provided by the Vance County School System.  Additionally, with the assistance of Ellington Digital Forensics, I was able to more closely examine the video of the incident. After reviewing the evidence available, and carefully examining the relevant law, I have determined that no charges will be filed against former School Resource Officer Warren Durham or Assistant Principal Kevin Ross related to this incident.

In summary, the investigation revealed that on December 11, 2019, shortly after 11 a.m., a female, sixth-grade student was changing classes, and during that time accessed her backpack to retrieve a cell phone in violation of school policy. The student was in the vicinity of the School Resource Officer Warren Durham who appeared to tell her something as he walked by.  Within a few seconds, the student is approached by Vance County Middle School Assistant Principal Kevin Ross and he extends his hand to retrieve the cell phone. The student initially pulls the phone away but then hands the phone over.  At that point, a verbal exchange between the student and the assistant principal begins and the student appears to try and push past Assistant Principal Kevin Ross. The School Resource officer steps over to the vicinity of the exchange and begins directing students around them. The student reported to Vance County Sheriff’s Office investigators at this time she intended to leave the school, but it is unclear as to whether she told Assistant Principal Kevin Ross her intentions. It appears from the video that Assistant Principal Kevin Ross directs her to retrieve her belongings and the student reported that he told her to go upstairs to his office. At this point, Assistant Principal Kevin Ross physically redirects her to retrieve her belongings, and, at that point, she complies.

Assistant Principal Kevin Ross was acting in his official capacity and thus his actions are governed by NCGS 115C-390.3, which states school personnel may use reasonable force to force or control behavior for the purpose of 1) correcting students or 6) to maintain order on educational property. This use of force must be reasonable and cannot be excessive as to cause any serious or permanent injury to the student.  After review of the video and this juvenile’s medical records, it cannot be determined that she suffered any serious injury. Further, several hours of video were made available to this office and a review of the same tend to show that the sixth-grade student did not exhibit any signs of discomfort or injury in the hours following the incident.

Initial claims made by the juvenile that School Resource Officer Warren Durham pushed the student or pulled her hair are not supported by the video, as it appears that at no time was there ever any physical contact between the student and the school resource officer.

For these reasons, I met with the family and their legal counsel today and shared my decision not to pursue criminal charges in this matter.

Vance County Schools has issued the following statement:

Vance County Schools received the statement from District Attorney Mike Waters this afternoon.  At this time, we plan to meet with our attorney and Kevin Ross to bring closure to the personnel portion of this matter, as outlined in our school board policy.

As we committed to our community when this event occurred, to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again, district officials coordinated a training, led by the National Association for School Resource Officers, on January 14-15.  The two-day training was attended by all Vance County School Resource Officers, representatives from the Sheriff’s Office, County Government officials and school-based and district administration. Our work with the NC Center for Safer Schools will involve that our current MOU (memorandum of understanding) is aligned with the best practices included in our training. Our goal is to ensure that, as a district, we are maintaining the highest standards for school–based policing.

As always, safety is our top priority and we are committed to educating our students in an environment that is welcoming and safe.

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