Police defend handcuffing, arresting six-year-old for alleged temper tantrum
by Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
April 18, 2012
In yet another instance of children being criminalized for exhibiting childish behavior, a six-year-old was hauled out of school in handcuffs for allegedly throwing a temper tantrum in class.
Salecia Johnson, a kindergartener, was taken away from her small Georgia school in steel handcuffs after being accused of tearing items off the walls and throwing books in an outburst at Creekside Elementary in Milledgeville and now the school system and the police are both defending how they handled the incident.
According to WMAZ, police “took the child to the police station where she was charged with simple assault and damage to property. Because of her age, she will not be prosecuted.”
The family of Johnson said that she was badly shaken by her treatment while Geneva Braziel, the superintendent for Baldwin County schools, characterized Johnson’s behavior as “violent and disruptive.”
“The Milledgeville police department was ultimately called to assist due to safety concerns for the student, other classmates and the school staff,” Braziel claimed in a statement.
Police refused to say what actually set off the alleged tantrum, but they did accuse Johnson of also throwing a small shelf which hit the principal on the leg along with jumping on a paper shredder ant attempting to break a glass frame.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s experience is far from isolated as this troubling trend is something that occurs across the United States.
In California, for instance, over 40% of public school suspensions are issued for dubious reasons such as “willful defiance” and disruption.
Ultimately, in many of these cases, the policies end up hurting the students the most, as evidenced by the fact that according to Johnson’s mother, Constance Ruff, Johnson was suspended and is not allowed to return to school until August.
Milledgeville Chief of Police Dray Swicord defended the police’s decision to haul Johnson out of school in cuffs by claiming that it was standard operating procedure and that when an officer tried to calm her, she resisted.
“Our policy is that any detainee transported to our station in a patrol vehicle is to be handcuffed in the back. There is no age discrimination on that rule,” Swicord said.
“She has mood swings some days, which all of us had mood swings some days. I guess that was just one of her bad days that day,” Ruff explained, painting a picture of a child throwing a temper tantrum, as children are wont to do, which police responded to by treating her like a hardened, violent offender.
According to The Washington Post, civil rights advocates and criminal justice experts across the United States are observing how frustrated teachers and school administrators are calling police to resolve even the most minor conflicts.
“Kids are being arrested for being kids,” Shannon Kennedy, a civil rights attorney said.
Kennedy is currently suing the Albuquerque, New Mexico school district due to hundreds of children being arrested over the last few years for offenses as minor as refusing to switch seats or having cell phones in class all the way up to the high crimes of burping and destroying a history book.
In one case, a 14-year-old boy was actually arrested for inflating a condom in the classroom. I don’t know about you, but I know that I would get a kick out of reading that police report.
Other cases include another kindergartener being arrested in Florida for an allegedly throwing a temper tantrum during a jelly bean counting contest several years ago.
In fact, a bill was proposed just this year in Florida in an attempt to restrict the ability for police to arrest children for minor misdemeanors or other acts which do not pose a serious threat to safety.
Annette Montano of Albuquerque also said that her 13-year-old child was arrested just last year for the absurd crime of burping in gym class.
While Albuquerque school officials will not comment on the arrests in their school system, the president of the Albuquerque teachers union, Ellen Berstein, claims that students’ bad behavior is more extreme now than it once was.
She claims that there are cases of sexual harassment in elementary and middle school as well as cases of children throwing furniture. “There is more chronic and extreme disrespect, disinterest and kids who basically don’t care,” she added.
Thankfully, not all are blind enough to buy the flawed logic put forth by schools and police. Darrel Stephens, a former police chief in Charlotte, North Carolina and executive director of the Major Cities Chief Association is one of those who does not see this trend as promising.
“I have had some concern for a while that the schools have relied a little too heavily on police officers to handle disciplinary problems,” Stephens said.
In Texas alone, a nonprofit public interest group called Texas Appleseed found that an estimated 100,000 children are ticketed each and every year for misdemeanors ranging from violations of the school dress code to truancy to swearing.
One Texas state lawmaker, Senator John Whitmire, wants to get rid of student ticketing entirely. He says that teachers and police need to draw more distinct lines between students who they are actually afraid of and students who they are mad at.
“If you are afraid of someone because they bring a gun or drugs, of course we come down hard,” Whitmire said. “It’s the kids that just make you mad that you don’t need to make a crime.”
This seems like a wholly logical statement and yet somehow it doesn’t seem to be shared by some administrators, teachers, police and legislators.
If we continue to turn our children into criminals by treating them as such, we can expect a culture of criminality and a large customer base for the private prison industry to continue into the foreseeable future.
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