Children Cruelly Handcuffed Win Big Settlement Against the Police in Kentucky

On Thursday, a sheriff’s office in Kentucky has agreed to pay more than $337,000 for the painful and unconstitutional handcuffing of elementary school students with disabilities. The two plaintiffs, both of whom were children of color and both of whom have disabilities, were so small that the deputy sheriff locked the handcuffs around the children’s biceps, forcing their hands behind their backs. 

One of the cuffings was recorded in a video that went viral. The footage of the little boy, identified as “S.R.,” painfully squirming and sobbing in handcuffs drew national media attention and sparked debate over the role of law enforcement officers in schools.

Despite this video, and information that the deputy sheriff had handcuffed several other elementary school children — one as young as five — the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office insisted that the handcuffings were a proper use of force and refused to reconsider its policies. The ACLU, along with the Children’s Law Center and Dinsmore & Shohl, filed suit. In October 2017, a federal district court ruled that the punishment was “an unconstitutional seizure and excessive force.” 

After the handcuffings, both children had repeated nightmares, started bed-wetting, and would not let their mothers out of their sight. Both families left the school district, and moved to areas where their children could receive the treatment and accommodations they needed. 

The settlement comes as the national debate heats up over whether to boost the number of law enforcement officers in schools. The plaintiffs in this case were small children in need of support and understanding. They needed someone who understood the effects of their disability on their behavior and could help them with appropriate accommodations. Law enforcement does not have those tools.  Indeed, the tools they do have — handcuffs, batons, pepper spray, and guns — are particularly inappropriate and harmful in the school environment.

There is no evidence that putting police officers in schools makes children any safer. What we do know is that 1.7 million children attend public schools that have cops but no counselors. Three million students attend schools with law enforcement officers, but no nurses.  And six million students attend schools with law enforcement officers, but no school psychologists. 

The brunt of these staffing choices falls most heavily and students with disabilities — especially students of color with disabilities. Students with disabilities are three times more likely than students without disabilities to be referred to law enforcement. Black girls with disabilities are 3.33 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement, and Black boys with disabilities are 4.58 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement. 

The six-figure settlement is a small victory in the context of all the work that remains. But it highlights the harm of having law enforcement in schools — especially for young students with disabilities.  We hope it will also open the door to more thoughtful discussions of how schools and our country can best support and educate our youth.

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Anonymous

Some schools have padded rooms where a child can go to calm down without being able to harm themselves. So you think schools should just tie them up like dogs or something? Makes sense. I hope you never have any children.

Anonymous

Your argument is that a fully grown, fully trained police officer can't physically restrain a 52 pound kid without handcuffing his elbows behind his back for 15 minutes?!

Anonymous

Should the school tie them up like dogs? As a parent of a child whose been injured by a violent classmates i can honestly say that if the kid is a danger to my child I'm fine with the violent kid getting tied up, handcuffed, or otherwise kept from hurting me child.

Anonymous

Unfortunately many L.E.O.'s lack the proper training on how to hand situations with intellectually and/or mentally disablies. Which frequently leads to unnecessary force being used and in some case needless deaths, all because they didnt recognize the signs of a mentally or intellectually challenged person.

Anonymous

Why are these police officers and their supervisor's names unpublished? Even under the legal cover of "allegedly" the public should have the right to know who these evil and talentless excuse for law enforcement are. They are a public danger.

Pam Murphy

I am horrified at the practice of handcuffing children as a technique for behavior modification. Obviously, the schools need the resources, training and patience to work through the challenges these students experience in the school setting and the time to work with the family and community services to help children succeed.

Ed Miranda

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous

please tell me the officers were fired from their posts?

Anonymous

Of course they weren't. This is Kentucky. You can see from the comments on this site just what they REALLY think. Which is that this is really good idea and we should be handcuffing all children. Seems to me it would be a much better idea if we handcuffed and gagged certain politicians.

Anonymous

ACLU and CLC took 2/3 of settlements . Forgot to report both kids were in the act assaulting teacher s and administrators . Deputy was called to school by principals. The principal video tape the event and assault. You have half the story tell the whole truth

FAKE NEWS

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