Officer Handcuffs 8-Year-Old With Disabilities, Proving Police Need Training In De-Escalation Techniques

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slack-imgsThere are a lot of contentious issues in the world today, but one thing most of us can agree on is that it is not OK to shackle disabled children in school. That might have been something a person would do to Oliver Twist, but it’s just not how we post-Dickensian types roll. But not everyone has gotten the memo, and now the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against a Kentucky sheriff’s deputy who was filmed handcuffing a third-grader at school for “misbehaving.”

(Related: There Is Absolutely No Excuse For Handcuffing A Kindergartner)

In the video footage, Kentucky sheriff’s deputy Kevin Sumner pins the arms of an 8-year-old boy behind his back with a set of handcuffs clipped around his biceps. It does not look comfortable.

“Oh, God. Ow, that hurts,” the boy said.

“You can do what we ask you to or you can suffer the consequences,” said Sumner, in the weary voice of an adult who is in over his head and just trying to teach a lesson to a kid who is acting up. But the little boy wails and kicks his feet. The ACLU says proper handcuff procedure prohibits their use on small children, and the little boy is only about three and a half feet tall and 52 pounds.

According to the ACLU, students with disabilities represent 12 percent of students in US public schools, but account for 75 percent of the restraint punishments. The ACLU says this type of punishment just traumatizes them further. It definitely does not look pleasant, or like the type of experience that would calm a child down.

The little boy was reportedly left handcuffed with his arms behind his back for 15 minutes as punishment. The ACLU’s suit maintains that was abusive and says Sumner has resorted to this tactic before, once with a 56-pound girl. Both children reportedly have ADHD, and the ACLU says it is bringing its suit in part to drive home the need for law enforcement in schools to be trained in how to work with children with disabilities and trauma.

Sumner’s supervisor, who is also named in the suit, says the department is standing by the officer and that he did nothing wrong.

“School superintendents and administrators want, and need, to provide a safe environment for students and teachers,” Kenton County Sheriff Charles Korzenborn said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. A safe environment sounds ideal, but “safe” does not include, “may have arms pinned behind back with handcuffs.” That sort of behavior does not seem like it will help anybody. It just seems like the sort of thing that will make a child’s behavioral problems even worse.

I don’t think Sumner is a bad guy. He probably got into this line of work because he genuinely wanted to help people. But it certainly seems like he and officers like him need more training in how best to help in situations like this, because sending an officer in to handcuff a small child with disabilities is not doing anybody any favors.

The ACLU’s video can be seen here: