Police Officer Couldn't Handle Small Kids With ADHD So He Handcuffed Them

When a child with special needs is having a meltdown, it can be hard to know how to help him cope and to keep him from hurting himself or others. Or, instead of trying to do what you can to help an upset elementary schooler, you could do what one Kentucky cop did, and put that child in handcuffs.


On two occasions, Kevin Sumner, a school resource officer in northern Kentucky, put two elementary school–age children with ADHD -- an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl -- in handcuffs during the middle of an outburst of behavior. The boy's handcuffing came after he swung his elbow at the officer, who apparently told him, "You don't get to take a swing at me." The 9-year-old was apparently trying to hit school staff after being sent to an isolation room. And since handcuffs are too big for the wrists of an 8-year-old, Sumner handcuffed each child's biceps together behind his or her back.

If having your arms pulled tightly together behind your back sounds unpleasant, imagine how bad it must seem to a panicking child in the middle of a meltdown. The 9-year-old girl in particular had to be taken out of the school by a medical crisis team called in by Sumner, and went directly to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. The mothers of each child are suing the officer and school to have the practice of handcuffing children banned and to ask for financial compensation for the trauma the kids have gone through.

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I'm a former teacher myself (although at the high school and not elementary school level) and I know it's not easy to deal with a child who's going off the rails. But I also know there are other and better ways to deal with a situation like this one, and the state of Kentucky knows it too, because physically restraining a student known to have disabilities -- disabilities like the one these kids are dealing with, and which the school acknowledges it was aware of -- is illegal in the state. The school is also aware of this law, which is why they have the isolation room the girl was originally being sent to. Handcuffing a 50-pound child is nothing more than punitive, and punishing a child who can't deal with his emotions only escalates an already thoroughly escalated situation. In fact, professional psychiatric assocations point out that physically restraining a child can make behavior worse as he panics and struggles. (This is why things like isolation rooms exist in the first place.) No, dealing with a child in crisis is not easy ... but neither is being a child in crisis.


Image © jabejon / iStock

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