Shelley Osterloh ReportingA tantrum led to handcuffs at a Florida elementary school and now the whole matter could end in court. Last week a five-year old girl was handcuffed by police officers after throwing a 30 minute tantrum that included assaulting teachers and damaging school property. Now the girl's parents are threatening to sue both the school and the police department.
John Trevena, Mother's Attorney: “To forcibly handcuff that little girl in that manner, that’s indefensible, there’s no excuse for that. It’s excessive, it’s abuse.”
The school board is defending the actions of police, saying there was no other way to calm the child. Would authorities here in Utah have handled that out of control child any differently?
It’s the image of three police officers handcuffing a 5-year old child that disturbs some people.
Woman: "My little girl is four and I would never put her in handcuffs, that's for criminals. And a child can never be a criminal."
The in-school camera also caught about a half hour of the child acting out, hitting the assistant principal who is trying to calm her down, tearing things off the wall, climbing on the furniture. Some Utah parents say kids need discipline and if parents can't do it school administrators and even police may need to.
We showed the video to the Granite School District administrator in charge of children who act or misbehave. She says it is unusual to use handcuffs on a child as young as five, but it may be necessary for a junior high or high schools student who is in danger of hurting himself or someone else.
Sue McGhie-Troff, Granite District Student Services Director: "Obviously there is a history. There is something more going on with this child that just being upset with what’s happening in the classroom. In a normal situation with a child that didn't' have a disability, didn't have a history, it would be possible to divert their attention."
She says when kids act out and are out of control parents and school officials need to work together to assess the child's needs and come up with a plan to help that child.
Granite School district specialists, like social workers or psychologists, receive training on physical restraint techniques that can subdue a child without hurting them, but they are only used if the child is in danger of harming himself or others.