A Kentucky Deputy Sheriff is being sued by the parents of two children with disabilities, who are claiming that he traumatized their children by handcuffing them for acting out in school in relation to their disabilities.
A video released by the American Civil Liberties Union, in connection with the Child Law Center, shows Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner at a school in Covington, Kentucky, placing handcuffs on the arms of an 8-year-old boy. Because the boy’s hands are too small to fit, Sumner places the handcuffs on the boy’s biceps, forcing his hands behind his back, while he cries out in pain.
The boy, who is identified in the lawsuit as S.R., has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a history of trauma. A 9-year-old girl, identified as L.G., is also mentioned. The lawsuit claims that she has been handcuffed twice, and that she has ADHD and other special needs.
WKYT reported that students with disabilities “make up 12 percent of the student population, but are 75 percent of the students who are physically restrained by adults in their schools,” and that minority students with disabilities are often “punished and pushed out” instead of being given educational and counseling services. In this case, S.R. is Latino and L.G. is African American.
In each of the three incidents in which the children were handcuffed in fall 2014, the lawsuit claims that there was “no imminent danger of physical harm to the child or to anyone else” that required Sumner to place handcuffs on the children and to subject them to “unnecessary and excessive handcuffing” that resulted in “pain, fear and emotional trauma, and an exacerbation of their disabilities.”
S.R.’s mother, T.R. told WKYT that she has her son was traumatized by the incident. “It’s hard for him to sleep, he has anxiety, and he is scared of seeing the officer in the school,” T.R. said. “School should be a safe place for children. It should be a place they look forward to going to. Instead, this has turned into a continuing nightmare for my son.”
Lisa Thurau, executive director of Strategies for Youth, a national nonprofit organization that trains school resource officers, told the New York Times that cases such as one where a federal judge in New Mexico “ruled that the use of handcuffs on a 7-year-old with autism was permissible,” are an example of the way courts are increasingly upholding the use of handcuffs on children.
“This is an example of two worlds colliding,” Thurau said. “The state department of education says use the least restrictive treatment possible, the least use of force, and special consideration for children with special needs. But then police come in, and they are untrained, and judges are validating the use of force.”
Kim Tandy, executive director of the Children’s Law Center, noted that Kentucky’s school personnel are prohibited from using restraints to punish children or to force behavior compliance. “These regulations include school resource officers,” Tandy said. “These are not situations where law enforcement action was necessary.”
The lawsuit also names the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn, charging them with the “responsibility of establishing policies, practices and training for school resource officers,” such as Sumner.
Read the full lawsuit below: