New Jersey Civil Rights and School Harassment Trial Lawyer Discusses Kentucky Sheriff’s Officer Handcuffing Disabled Boy and ACLU Suit
In 2014, a Kentucky sheriff’s deputy put handcuffs on two elementary school students with disabilities for “misbehaving” in school. A video is making the rounds today, showing one of the boys crying in pain, facing the corner. The boy is small and slight, the sheriff officer is portly and tall.
This was disgusting. I say this fully aware of the fact that some children, including those with disabilities, can become violent or physical enough that some type of restraint is needed. Yet part of the analysis of how to respond to any situation requires some degree of discretion and common sense.
Look at the video. The size of the officer and the size of the kid have to be taken into consideration when the sheriff’s officer makes the disgusting decision that he did.
Of course, all of this is aside from the fact that it’s entirely illegal to use this type of restraint on a child. In fact, aside from its illegality, we also have the fact that the handcuffs were actually put on the kid’s upper arms near the biceps, because the little guy was too small for the cuffs to even work on his wrists.
Cuffing the biceps together is even more painful than cuffing the wrists together, because of how the arms move (and don’t move). If you don’t believe me, put your arms behind your back right now and imagine your wrists being cuffed. Moving your shoulders and elbows can take most of the strain off of the wrists being immobilized, but that can’t happen with restraint at your bicep level; your shoulders and wrists cannot relieve the strain.
Then, the officer, Kevin Sumner, proceeds to lecture the kid, who is autistic, about proper behavior.
Autistic kids behave as autistic kids behave. It’s not their choice and it’s not their fault. A school needs to accommodate kids with disabilities, because they have the same Constitutional right to an appropriate education as do neuro-typical children. Not that it would’ve been okay to handcuff a neuro-typical 8-year old either, but this is even more disgusting because either Sumner was not properly trained by the school (all individuals, especially those who wear a badge and have the right to use force in the name of the law, should be trained on how to handle kids with disabilities and told who those kids are), or it means that he was trained and ignored that training. The ACLU has done what the ACLU is designed to do, and has just filed suit over this.
In New Jersey, children have a Constitutional right to be free of illegal restraints and a Constitutional right to be reasonably accommodated based upon their disability in the granting of their constitutional right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
I applaud the ACLU and I am disgusted that law enforcement still feels that it can act in a manner like this. Of course, Deputy Sumner is being backed by his superiors – what else can they do but circle the wagons as law enforcement tends to do? – but it wouldn’t have been right for the Sheriff’s Department to throw Sumner under the bus anyway. Frankly, the entire Sheriff’s Department needs to be taken to task.
I hope justice is done here.