8-Year-Old Student Handcuffed & Thrown in Jail for Tantrum at School

Jmyha Rickman’s My kids, ages 4 and 9, are always asking me if they could go to jail for hitting one another, or whatever infraction they've just committed. Rather than say yes and scare them into behaving like I'd like them to, I reassure them repeatedly that kids don't go to jail unless they do something really bad, like kill someone. Turns out that's not always the case, as 8-year-old Jmyha Rickman of Alton, Ill., was recently handcuffed and kept in jail for two hours.

Her offense? Throwing a "tantrum".

According to KMOV, school officials called police in what they say was a "last resort," but privacy rules prohibit them from saying much more. Police say they were called because the girl "was reportedly out of control and had torn up two classrooms". So a police officer showed up on Tuesday, handcuffed both of her hands and feet, and put her in the back of a squad car. After that the girl, who is said to have special needs (though what kind isn't stated), was taken to jail where she stayed for two hours.

Both police and the school stand by the decision. But Jmyha's family is outraged that it happened, and their description of what happened isn't quite in line with what police say happened. The girl's guardian, Neheniah Keeton, says she was manhandled.

Her eyes were swollen from her crying and her wrists had welts on them. They cuffed her feet too and she asked to use the restroom several times and was ignored.

He told the station he was on his way to pick her up, like he's done before when she's misbehaved, but thinks school officials grew impatient. He said, "I feel like if you can’t handle an 8-year-old without calling the police ... to put fear in them like my child, you don’t need to work with kids.”

And I agree with him ... to a point. Yes, schools should be able to handle the tantrum of an 8-year-old without police involvement, but what if they can't? There is a line where a tantrum becomes much more than just a tantrum. They have to think about the safety and security of all of the other students. So what else is there to do if a student is presenting a danger to him or herself? I wish there was another option, but I honestly can't think of any if a child is completely out of control in a school environment.

It's heartbreaking to think of an 8-year-old sitting in jail, and if she was mistreated at all, then that's definitely cause for action. But it sounds like she's had problematic behavior before, and officials chose the best option at the time. Maybe it's the wake-up call she needs to start behaving, or perhaps more appropriately in this case, the one her family and school need to get her the help it sounds like she could use.


Do you think it was right that this girl was jailed for a tantrum? Do you think children should ever be placed in jail?


Image via KMOV

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mande... manderspanders

I think if she were acting out that violently that she tore up 2 classrooms... then yes, calling the police was the correct action.

God knows if the school staff would have attempted to restrain her themselves, there'd be even more people screaming about that.

I'm skeptical if the kid has special needs.  Special needs children (behavior or medical needs) still require boundaries and discipline as other kids do.  Perhaps modified for their understanding; but still required.  Sounds like this kid has no clue what boundaries are.

Of Course the parents are mad. Little angel should be able to tear up the whole school if that's what she wants to do.

Doomy234 Doomy234

Yes, she should have been restrained if she was so enraged that she tore up two classrooms. I understand them jailing her too, they wanted her in a safe location where she wouldnt hurt herself or others.

As a parent, I would have been kind of upset but in seeing the damage she caused, I would understand. This kid clearly needed to be taught that you dont behave like that when you're mad.

Mommi... MommietoJB

@ manderspanders- I agree.

I have an autistic child and I do not see that as an excuse for out of control behavior from my child. I expect him to behave and treat others with respect just like any of my children. I think if anything the parents are in need of some parenting classes. Maybe they need someone to educate them on disciplining a child with special needs and getting the girl therapy.

mande... manderspanders

@mommietojb :  I work with medically fragile and developmentally disabled children; I have been in classrooms with autistic children on the lower functioning side and have seen some...umm... interesting situations.  It is refreshing to hear from a mother of a special child that you have expectations for him.  Usually what I see from parents of these children is that they don't want to say "no" ever; they don't want to set any kind of boundary ever... because their child has been through so much and should get whatever they want.

I understand that thought; but then I see the reality when they hit school age.  I don't want anyone to think that I believe special needs children of any kind should always be discplined as a normal functioning child would; but there are ways to modify discipline in an appropriate manner for those children. 

Kudos to you for doing your best to raise a respectful child!

work4... work4mickey

Sounds like she was out of control.

"her eyes were swolen from her crying."

Yeah, she didn't get her way and she was crying. I see it from my daughter all the time.

"her wrists had welts on them"

Yeah, unfortunately if you continue your violent tantrum after being handcuffed, that's gonna happen.

"she requested to use thee bathroom several times"

Did she request after she calmed down, or did she demand while still in the throes of the tantrum, most likely as a ploy to be set free?

Sounds to me like there is no descrepancy between the versions of what happened.

Rando... Randomlady

If she had "special needs" I'm sort of surprised the school wasn't capable of handling her with that knowledge before her outburts. My stepson is low functioning and his school knows it, if he is becoming rough they have special precautions to handle him, even go as far as to bind him in a stretchy fabric until he calms down. I just think they should have had some boundaries set up, maybe a small room with nothing in it but cushions for her to expell her anger in a more sustained area instead of endangering others.

Todd Vrancic

So often, having a child with "special needs" is an excuse for the parents and/or guardian to totally slack on discipline.  A common thing I've heard is "He/She has 'x' condition and can't help it."  I call BS.  I was ADHD and my mother would never have tolerated tantrums from me, especially ones that destroyed two classrooms.  I wouldn't have sat down for quite some time with any comfort if she saw or heard of that kind of behavior.

shyly... shylynn22

Obviously they can't control their kids and don't like other people disciplining her either. Hopefully this has changed her, because with her parents attitude she will just up back in jail.

mothe... motherofpugs

This is entirely too stupid. my kids have uncontrollable tantrums sometimes, you know what I do? I deal with it because that's what kids do. There is no reason to put a child in jail for being angry. Maybe the school officials should have asked her what was wrong instead of calling the police. Children who have these tantrums often have underlying issues that they do not know how to deal with because they still have a child's mind andcannot take that step back and realize what they are doing. The school was wrong in so many ways and should publically apologize and drop charges. She should have been sent for a crisis intervention with a local therapist, not jail. The school was wrong, and no one is above reproach on this!

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