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Old 05-03-2005, 04:08 AM   #1
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7 Year Old Special Needs Student Handcuffed

Should a 7 year old, especially one w/ special needs, be handcuffed? It sounds like he was completely out of control. But it also sounds so horrible to do that to a child that age, especially one w/ special needs.

It does seem clear that he was a danger to others there, that he was very violent.

I'll post the whole article because you have to register to read it..

Police defend handcuff decision
Fall River report details boy's arrest

By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff | May 3, 2005

Until after recess, the 7-year-old first-grader seemed untroubled during his first day at a Fall River elementary school. But when his teacher asked the class to open their books, the boy resisted, police said. Saying he was going home, he tried to hit his teacher, another student, and a teacher's aide and then bolted into the hallway.

When the principal tried to make eye contact, the boy kicked her in the throat, according to a Fall River police report. Other teachers tried to intervene, and the boy struck one several times in the face and pulled her hair. He kicked another in the legs and tried to yank a chain from her neck.

By the time police got to the school, a teacher was struggling to keep the boy inside the principal's office. ''He's so strong, I can't hold the door," she said.

Inside the inner office, a frightened female employee cowered behind a desk.

Yesterday, Fall River's police chief released the police report in an attempt to stem criticism by the boys' parents and special education advocates of the officers' decision to handcuff the boy and charge him with assault.

''The officers, I think, used incredible discretion," Police Chief John M. Souza told the Globe yesterday. ''I was briefed on the incident, and my first reaction was, 'Oh my goodness, he's 7 years old, and they cuffed him. Why? Why?' "

But after being briefed by a commander who OK'd the use of handcuffs and shackles, Souza said he decided that officers made the right decision last Thursday.

''I couldn't have possibly considered a more appropriate method or more appropriate response to this incident than what transpired," he said.

Souza said he would be amenable, if asked by prosecutors, to back off the charges, as long as the boy appears in court and receives the services he appears to need.

''Certainly, we're not looking to prosecute and have a criminal record at such a tender age," Souza said.

The chief trial counsel in the Bristol County District Attorney's Office would not discuss prosecutors' plans for going forward.

The boy, who has special needs, had ended up at the wrong Fall River school because of a paperwork problem. The boy's parents, who could not be reached by the Globe yesterday, told The Boston Herald on Sunday that they were outraged that police had used force on their son, instead of calling a counselor to his aid. Some special education advocates complained yesterday that the charges filed against the boy were dramatically inappropriate for a child of that age.

The boy now faces two counts of assault; two counts of assault and battery on a public employee; two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot; and disturbing a school assembly. He was released to his mother Thursday and received a summons to appear in juvenile court this Friday. A Department of Social Services spokeswoman said she knew of no other instance in which a child that young was handcuffed. Souza pointed out that 7 is the age of criminal responsibility in Massachusetts.

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Old 05-03-2005, 04:09 AM   #2
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Page 2 of 2 -- ''You may say 7 is the age they may know what they're doing, but obviously the child has issues. Does he really know what he's doing?" said Diane Pankow of Sharon, whose son has attention deficit disorder and other problems that require special education. ''Then you're blaming a child for a number of mistakes that the system has made. He's in the wrong school."

Ellen Chambers of Pepperell, who works as a special education advocate in Eastern Massachusetts, said she thought that charging the boy was absurd and archaic.

''To take any child and put them through something like that? I can't imagine what the police were thinking," Chambers said.

''That kid can't be all that big or strong," she added. ''You're talking about a little kid."

Souza said his officers did not rush to use handcuffs. ''Everybody involved in this thing is a father himself," he said.

According to the police report, written by Officer Arthur M. Tansey, when police arrived: ''The area outside the office had been trashed by the student. The copy machine had been pushed across the room."

Believing he could calm the boy and prevent him from hurting himself, the officer carried the boy outside, but the 7-year-old continued to struggle, the report said.

''With a free hand, he started throwing grass, sticks, and stones in my direction," Tansey wrote. ''He continued kicking and struggling to free himself, and at each attempt to loosen my grip and get him to calm down, he would swing at me, swearing and being verbally abusive to the teachers who were there trying to comfort him."

Then, the boy punched one of the officers in the groin, according to the report. After consulting their watch commander, the officers decided to put cuffs on the boy's wrists and ankles, doublelocking the cuffs to prevent tightening as he continued to struggle, the report says.

Tansey wrote that he and the officers demonstrated to the teachers that the cuffs were not harming the boy and were being used only to control his ''violent behavior."

According to the report, the boy had ended up at the wrong school on his first day in Fall River schools. He was transferring to Fall River from the Boston public schools, where he had been in special education classes. He had been living with his father in Boston and was going to live with his mother in Fall River. The boy's paperwork had not arrived, so the school system put him in the school closest to his new home.

Yesterday, he was expected to start classes in a different Fall River elementary school with special needs classes, according to Denise Monteiro, a spokeswoman for DSS. The agency began investigating the boy's situation after police called, according to the police report.

The police report noted that the principal intended to suspend the boy from school, pending an evaluation of his needs.

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Old 05-03-2005, 04:14 AM   #3
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Good grief. It's scary to think about what a paperwork mistake can do to someone.
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Old 05-03-2005, 04:31 AM   #4
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I'm a bit torn over what to think about this kind of thing. Something similar happened here with a girl about the same age being handcuffed.
I'm biased as I spent a few years working with children with disabilities, but I'm sure some of the things we had done would shock some people, while some would agree with it. Restraining a child who is out of control is a very hard thing to do, physically. Being young children, you have to constantly be careful of harming them as even though they might be in the middle of a blind rage and possess superior strength as a result, they are still so much smaller than an adult. Still, a thrashing and violent person is difficult to handle without force. It's usually a short term incident which has a priority of safety until you can 'wait it out' so to speak. If the child is a threat to him/herself, other children, and anyone in the vicinity, you have to do whatever it will take. Restraint has to be used. It annoys me endlessly to hear people say a counsellor or other such intervention should be a priority, because if it were that simple, children with particular needs would never lash out. I've not seen one in a rage who is willing to talk, they want to escape usually, and hurt anyone in their way. Talking and learning has it's place and benefit when the child is calmer, not when they are frantic and probably scared. His state of being frantic and or scared doesn't seem to help the handcuff debate as it only makes it seem worse, but often, little can be done until the child is calmer.
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Old 05-03-2005, 05:10 AM   #5
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No child ,special needs are not, has the right to behave the way this child behaved. He was presenting a danger to others and he had to be restrained. Schools have a responsibility to protect all the children and teachers in the school, not the rights of some kid that is out of control. I am also thinking about the number of students whose learning was interrupted by this child .
I hope the teachers he kicked went to the doctor and I hope they file charges if they were injured.
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Old 05-03-2005, 06:22 AM   #6
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I agree with Maggie1, even though Al Sharpton sure wouldn't.
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Old 05-03-2005, 06:23 AM   #7
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This is not as shocking or uncommon as you might think. It has happened at my kids' school at least 2 times that I know of. Teachers do use the cops to threaten kids into behaving. One boy from my daughter's kindergarten class was hauled away in handcuffs after days of being threatened with 'arrest.' He didn't even seem upset. They just took him out to the cop car and made him promise to behave and then they uncuffed him and took him back in. It never made the news.
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Old 05-03-2005, 06:33 AM   #8
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Well I guess if parents spent more time teaching their children to behave then the schools would not have to resort those types of behavior management techniques. Teachers and parents who have kids that behave, get tired of these bad kids who disrupt the learning environment and take over the school.
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Old 05-03-2005, 06:35 AM   #9
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''To take any child and put them through something like that? I can't imagine what the police were thinking," Chambers said.[/B]

Let's forget about all of the other people involved who were facing (or dealing with) physical harm. It's pretty simple, if a child is endangering himself or others, he must be restrained. I don't care what kind of special needs he may have, that doesn't give him a right to inflict harm.

I've worked with students from this age group for several years. Regardless of their small size, they are capable of a lot. The police did what was right.
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Old 05-03-2005, 07:48 AM   #10
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Funny enough, I've run into relevant comments regarding this subject. Special needs students can be downright violent and difficult to reason with. They all aren't "fun and games."

If children of all mental capacities want to act like little shits, then they can handle getting arrested.

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Old 05-03-2005, 07:56 AM   #11
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Souza said he would be amenable, if asked by prosecutors, to back off the charges, as long as the boy appears in court and receives the services he appears to need.

This seems reasonable.

I have a question that hasn't been asked yet...if he was not receiving the services he needed (as it appears he wasn't), why he was he being streamlined into a non-special needs environment?
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Old 05-03-2005, 08:17 AM   #12
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My sister used to work in the NYC school system at a school for special needs kids. One pushed her down a flight of steps, she subsequently required back surgery....twice....and missed 6 months of work....and her back gives her chronic pain.

I'm not relating this to justify cuffing the kid, just making you aware that it's a difficult situation with these children sometimes, the line between right and wrong is severely blurred with them. My sister still teaches, but just not in that particular environment anymore.
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Old 05-03-2005, 08:38 AM   #13
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Is being handcuffed really a huge deal?

My dad used to try out his "youth" handcuffs on us as a joke (ok, that sounds weird, but it wasn't) and I realize I wasn't struggling or anything, but it wasn't horrific. It's extremely uncomfortable, but it's not torture.

I think the police made the right decision. He was kicking people in the throat. That calls for a desperate measure. Hopefully the kid will be put in an environment where they are better able to cope with him.
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Old 05-03-2005, 08:49 AM   #14
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You can't just let an out of control child rampage, especially after he kicks someone in the throat. Some type of restraints had to be used for his safety and the safety of others. I'm sure some people will think its harsh and it was probably very hard for the school staff and the police themselves but it had to be done. A lot of people tend to forget the human side of police officers...some have children of their own and even if they don't, it can't be easy to deal with these situations.

If that child had broken away and run into the street or hurt himself during this episode, the same people saying the handcuffs were cruel would be asking why he wasn't restrained. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
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Old 05-03-2005, 08:54 AM   #15
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Originally posted by Bono's American Wife
Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Exactly. It's very easy to sit back and critique the situation afterwards. Much more difficult to make decisions while the child is acting like that.

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