COVINGTON, Ky. — A federal judge in Kentucky ruled this week that the August 2015 cuffing of two elementary students with disabilities by a school resource officer at Covington Independent Public Schools was unconstitutional and that Kenton County is liable for the deputy sheriff’s conduct.
The children, an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl were handcuffed above the elbow behind their backs. A disturbing video shows the boy, S.R., crying out in pain. The girl, L.G, was twice handcuffed above the elbow, also causing her pain. Both children were being punished for behavior related to their disabilities.
“We are gratified that the judge found, as a matter of law, that this was a violation of the Fourth Amendment,” said Claudia Center, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Disability Rights Program. “We knew this was unconstitutional behavior. Anyone who viewed the video could see it was tantamount to torture.”
The lawsuit was filed in August 2015 by the ACLU, the Children’s Law Center, and the private law firm of Dinsmore & Shohl. The suit prompted a Department of Justice investigation into the school district’s disciplinary practices, including the use of police to deal with routine student misbehavior. In January 2017, Covington Independent Schools entered into an agreement with DOJ and began implementing new policies to ensure that disciplinary practices do not discriminate against children with disabilities.
“Even as young children, both were certain that what the deputy did to them was wrong,” said Rickell Howard Smith, litigation director for the Children’s Law Center and counsel for the child-Plaintiffs. “I am glad to be able to tell them that the federal judge agrees with them.”
Kenyon Meyer of Dinsmore Shohl said, “This is a great day for our clients and the elementary school children. The court confirmed that using law enforcement tactics to discipline young children has no place in our schools.”
A copy of the decision is here: