S.R. is an eight-year-old, 52 pound boy with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
One day in Fall 2014, S.R. was removed from his classroom, allegedly for causing disruptive behavior.
After S.R. allegedly failed to comply with directions from School Resource Officer Kevin Sumner, he was forced into a chair and handcuffed.
Being that S.R. is an eight-year-old boy, the handcuffs fit around his biceps. He remained handcuffed for 15 minutes.
As can be seen in this video, the boy was clearly in pain and crying throughout the ordeal.
On August 6, the ACLU of Kentucky, the Children’s Law Center and Dinsmore & Shohl LLP sued the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of S.R. and L.G., a 9-year-old girl with ADHD also handcuffed by school resource officers on two occasions, once for 20 minutes.
“Shackling children is not okay. It is traumatizing, and in this case it is also illegal,” said Susan Mizner, disability counsel for the ACLU, in a news release. “Using law enforcement to discipline students with disabilities only serves to traumatize children. It makes behavioral issues worse and interferes with the school’s role in developing appropriate educational and behavioral plans for them.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, asserts a variety of claims. The advocacy groups contend the incident constituted an unreasonable seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and excessive force, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
In addition, they contend that the school’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, on the basis that S.R. and L.G. were discriminated against on the basis of their disabilities.
According to a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office, students with disabilities, despite representing just 12 percent of the total student population, represent 75 percent of students subjected to so-called restraint and seclusion techniques.
The report prompted a wave of state regulations banning such techniques in schools. Under new regulations passed by the Kentucky Board of Education in 2012, physical restraints are only permissible where a “a student’s behavior poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others.”
Mechanical restraints, such as handcuffs, are banned.
Efforts to pass federal legislation have so far been unsuccessful, despite heavy pressure from civil rights groups and disability advocates.
“There was no public safety threat in any of these instances that warranted throwing the regulations out the window and handcuffing these children,” Dinsmore & Shohl Attorney Kenyon Meyer said in the news release. “The school resource officer’s involvement was harmful and unnecessary, and it escalated rather than helped the situations.
“We should expect that if school resource officers are in our school systems, their roles should be focused on safety and security, not discipline or punishment of special needs children.”