(The Blaze/AP) — Police in Georgia handcuffed a kindergartner with her arms behind her back after she threw a tantrum at school, and the police chief defended the action as a safety measure.
“She might have misbehaved, but I don’t think she misbehaved to the point where she should have been handcuffed and taken downtown to the police department,” the girl’s aunt said.
Her father remarked: “A six-year-old in kindergarten. They don’t have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child.”
While it’s unusual to see a young child handcuffed in school, it’s not unheard of. School officials around the nation have wrestled with the issue of when it’s appropriate to call police on a student.
“Our policy is that any detainee unreported to our station in a patrol vehicle is to be handcuffed in the back…There is no age discrimination on that rule,” the city’s Chief of Police explained.
Salecia Johnson, 6, was accused of tearing items off the walls and throwing books and toys in an outburst Friday at Creekside Elementary School in Milledgeville, according to a police report.
Specifically, they say the child threw a small shelf which struck the principal on the leg, and also jumped on a paper shredder and tried to break a glass frame.
So, the school called the police. When an officer tried to calm the child in the principal’s office, she allegedly resisted. The police report says she was then “restrained by placing her hands behind her back and handcuffed.”
A juvenile complaint was filed, accusing the girl of simple battery and damage to property.
The girl’s aunt and mother say the 6-year old waited in a holding cell until they picked her up, and was “so shaken up.”
However, police chief says the girl was taken to the police department’s squad room, not a holding cell, and officers there tried to calm her and gave her a Coke.
Officials at Creekside Elementary did not immediately return calls Tuesday.
Salecia Johnson has been suspended and can’t return to school until August, according to her mother.
“We would not like to see this happen to another child, because it’s horrifying. It’s devastating,” her aunt told The Associated Press.
Elsewhere in the U.S., incidents involving students, police and handcuffs have raised difficult questions for educators, parents and policymakers.
In Florida, the use of police in schools came up several years ago when officers arrested a kindergartner who threw a tantrum during a jelly bean-counting contest. Since then, the overall number of student arrests in Florida has declined, but those for minor offenses have increased on a percentage basis. A bill was proposed this year to restrict police from arresting kids for misdemeanors or other acts that do not pose serious safety threats.
Annette Montano, a mother in Albuquerque, N.M., said her 13-year-old son was arrested last year after burping in gym class. The tension between him and school officials led to several more run-ins, including a strip search after he was accused of selling drugs, she said.
Finally, she said, she pulled him from the school in November. It took her three months to get him placed elsewhere.