A Kentucky sheriff is being sued for shackling two students with special needs one such incident which was caught on camera.
A video released by the American Civil Liberties Union shows a Kenton County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner in Covington, Kentucky shackling a third grader with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as punishment for his mental disorder.
Both the sheriff’s department and Sumner, school resource officer, is being sued by the ACLU, the Children's Law Center and Dinsmore & Shohl on behalf of the two children shackled — an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.
Sumner handcuffed the two children around their biceps – a position not approved in handcuff safety guidelines.
ACLU claims that the 9-year-old boy was put in handcuffs for 15 minutes for expressing symptoms related to his disabilities. In the video, the boy, with a history of trauma, is seen crying and telling the officer he is hurting him.
“You don’t get to swing at me like that,” Sumner says. “You can do what we've asked you to or you can suffer the consequences.”
While nationally students with disabilities make up 12 percent of the population, 75 percent are physically restrained by adults in school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This data fits into the school-to-prison pipeline where, like students of color, students with disabilities are pushed into the criminal justice system as a way of “handling them” rather than given appropriate counseling and educational services. In this particular case, one child is Latino and the other is African-American.
“Shackling children is not okay. It is traumatizing, and in this case it is also illegal,” said Susan Mizner, disability counsel for the ACLU. “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’s silver lining is advocating and requiring a change in the disciplinary practices of students with disabilities, specifically in policy changes within the sheriff’s office and greater training for school resource officers for students with special needs.
“It is heartbreaking to watch my little boy suffer because of this experience,” said the boy's mother. “It’s hard for him to sleep, he has anxiety, and he is scared of seeing the officer in the school. School should be a safe place for children. It should be a place they look forward to going to. Instead, this has turned into a continuing nightmare for my son.”