MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Months after Rutherford County families filed a class-action lawsuit, the $11 million settlement caught national attention. Families at the center of it came forward after the county illegally arrested and jailed minors in 2016.
“Shocked. I was shocked. Mainly because I’m a professor but also a pastor and the reality is that beyond the drama of the case, there are real people affected,” said Dr. Aaron Treadwell, with the NAACP Murfreesboro chapter.
Shortly after public outrage spread, the NAACP worked with local churches to spread the word about the lawsuit, which gave qualifying families the opportunity to receive compensation.
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Months later, the impact of the lawsuit can still be felt.
“Whereas money may have been had by some families, and they may feel a sense of justice, the reality is there are other persons, there are other individuals who may not have had their voice heard. That may not have come forward who may be dealing with different trials and tribulations,” said Dr. Treadwell.
Now, a vision for healing in Rutherford County is emerging.
“There’s so much that we have learned from this experience, and in order to embrace the future, you got to be able to let go of the past. You have to have a vision of how things can be better and how you can be part of that process to make things better,” said Michael McDonald.
McDonald is part of the new oversight board, tasked with holding juvenile justice staff and administrators accountable. This week, they held their first meeting.
“Citizens have to have this sense of feeling empowered. A sense of being invested in what the government does, and I would hope that there would be an opportunity for healing,” said McDonald.
News 2 reached out to one of the original families who spoke out after their son was arrested following the 2016 fight at Hobgood Elementary, which launched the initial lawsuit. Zacchaeus Crawford said his family did not want to speak on camera and they no longer live in Murfreesboro, but he did send us a statement regarding the new oversight board.
“Our family no longer lives in Murfreesboro, but we are hopeful that our and many others ordeal can bring about a positive change. Only time will tell if this new change will have a positive effect on the community that will outweigh all the negatives that have been previously administered.Zacchaeus Crawford