This Disturbing Incident Shows A Need For Change In School Discipline

Every parent worries about their child when they are not with them.  We cannot control situations they may experience when they are away from our care, and this includes while they are in school.

While we do our best to stay involved and informed about our child’s school day –we meet their teachers, help with homework, and ask about their day — the bottom line is, we cannot be with them every moment.

We must entrust our children’s welfare during the day to staff and teachers, and pray that they show our kids the compassion and understanding that every child deserves.

The outcome of a recent lawsuit reveals a shocking scenario that unfolded at an elementary school in Kentucky – and it leads us to wonder if we really know what is going on in our schools.

The Washington Post reported on an incident that occurred when a Deputy Sheriff assigned to the school crossed the line in his duties, handcuffing a boy with special needs who was acting out in class:

The children, an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, were so small that the school resource officer, Kenton County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner in Covington, Kentucky, locked the handcuffs around the children’s biceps and forced their hands behind their backs, the lawsuit charges. A disturbing video shows the boy, S.R., being shackled and crying out in pain. S.R. has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a history of trauma.

The girl, L.G, was twice handcuffed behind her back by her biceps, also causing her pain. L.G. has ADHD and other special needs. Both children were being punished for behavior related to their disabilities.

Sumner handcuffed the girl on two separate occasions in fall 2014 and the boy once in the same period, despite a school policy prohibiting school staff from handcuffing students. Sumner’s supervisor testified that the sheriff’s deputy acted in accordance with his training and that the policy did not apply to law enforcement in schools.

The incidents occurred in 2014, and a law suit was filed against the officer on behalf of the families. Now, three years later, a federal judge has ruled the officer used excessive force and declared the actions unconstitutional.

The Washington Post reported:

U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman wrote in his ruling that although the boy had swung at the sheriff’s deputy, his actions “can hardly be considered a serious physical threat from an unarmed, 54-pound 8-year-old child.”

“This judge drew a line in the sand and said this conduct is unconstitutional, and we think that this is helpful in our efforts to advocate against the criminalization of children,” said [attorney] Claudia Center. “It’s a terrible policy from our view, particularly in elementary schools.”

According to federal data, school staff members or police assigned to schools physically restrained nearly 6,000 students during the 2013-14 school year, which is the last year of data currently available.  A full third of those were children with special needs, including autism and ADHD.

And according to Department of Education statistics, students with disabilities represent 12 percent of public school students but are 75 percent of all students subjected to physical restraint at school.

Law enforcement officers in schools can serve as a presence to deter violence, and also as someone trained to handle emergency crisis situations on the property, but — especially in an elementary school — the use of excessive force on young students by police is an outrage.

It is unclear whether parents were called into the school about the behavior that led up to this incident, but they are clearly not present when the child is being recorded by staff –crying and scared while spending over 15 minutes in handcuffs.

The school district and deputy in question have not released a statement, nor is it clear what the officer’s future will hold.  Currently, the lawsuit is set to go to trial where a jury will rule on damages.

This case is the latest in a string of similar episodes across the nation.  Mommy Underground previously reported on a similar incident in an elementary school in Ontario,   and earlier this year, police in a Dallas school district handcuffed a 7-year-old boy with special needs and sent him to a mental facility for disrupting class.

Experts and infuriated parents say that further training is needed to teach law enforcement officers how to de-escalate a child’s behavior without the use of physical restraint, as well as learning specific techniques targeted towards calming children with behavioral issues.

“Instead of treating things like garden variety discipline, they treat them like law enforcement problems, and it leads to the kind of inappropriate response that we saw here,” said one attorney.

What are your thoughts on this outrageous incident and others like it? Leave us your comments.

You can watch the disturbing video in the Kentucky case below:

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