Thirteen-year-old Nia Whims spent 14 days in custody after she was arrested on suspicion of sending threats of violence to her school in November last year. It was later established those threats, which were posted on Instagram, were sent by a fellow student who was impersonating her, ABC News reported.
“At first, I felt really lost about the situation. It was a terrifying experience,” Whims said in a Tuesday interview with ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis.
In the wake of her false arrest, Whims’ family recently announced they’ve filed a lawsuit against Renaissance Charter School, Instagram as well as its parent company, Meta. Her family also said they intend to file a lawsuit against the Pembroke Pines Police Department for their alleged involvement in her false arrest and detention.
“When it comes to our children, law enforcement and our school officials must make sure they do their homework before they put our kids in handcuffs,” the family’s attorney, Marwan Porter said.
“And we know that, yes, there has been situations that have ended in tragedy where these type of threats need to be taken seriously. But it cannot come at the expense of our children.”
The lawsuit claims the defendants partook in malicious prosecution, violated Whims’ civil rights, and purposely inflicted emotional distress.
The student who impersonated Whims and sent the threats of violence to the school — which included a bomb threat — was later identified and charged, the Pembroke Pines Police Department said. Whims’ mother, Lezlie-Ann Davis, said the entire experience left them traumatized.
“Nobody looked into what damage it did,” she told the news outlet. “Emotionally, mentally, you know, and she’s still growing. She’s young and she’s growing. So as adults, a lot of things in our past affect us and I think it’s something that will affect her.”
Besides the false arrest, the lawsuit also alleges that Whims was subjected to bullying while she was enrolled at Renaissance Charter School, adding that school officials “failed to investigate or otherwise respond” after they were notified. Davis said she ended up withdrawing Whims from the school after the bullying got worse. That was days before she was arrested.
Responding to the lawsuit in a statement, a spokesperson for Renaissance Charter School said: “Our priority is always the safety and security of our students and we immediately involved law enforcement regarding that threat and took all appropriate precautions. We do not discuss any pending litigation, so we cannot comment on the pending lawsuit.”
The lawsuit also accuses Instagram of negligence as it allegedly failed to prevent the accused student from creating fake accounts to impersonate Whims. And though the Pembroke Pines Police Department refused to comment on the lawsuit, the department said Davis only became cooperative with investigators in December.
At that time, the department said it had managed to receive the green light to request a subpoena for the IP addresses that were used to send the messages, ABC News reported. Police also said investigators were eventually able to link those IP addresses to the student in question.
In a press conference to announce the lawsuit, Porter alleged race played a factor in the incident. Porter also debunked the police department’s claim of Davis being uncooperative.
Whims’ family is demanding a minimum of $30,000 in addition to costs and lawyer’s fees.