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Handcuffing Students

| 75 Comments

An incident in which police in St. Petersburg, Fla., handcuffed an unruly 5-year-old at her school, along with similar events reported around the country this year, has stirred concern among many parents, educators, and community leaders.

Their question: Is it ever appropriate to handcuff an elementary school pupil? What's your view?

75 Comments

To me calling the police on a five year old is a bit preposterous. It's a sign that the administration and staff of that school has lost control. There are more appropriate ways to restrain a student that needs to be restrained. Even in the event that a weapon has been brought to school, once the situation is de-escalated enough for someone to reach the child, other methods can be used. I'm not saying that this is not a matter for the police; it's a matter on which everyone should be highly concerned, but there are other ways of handling it that sends a better message.
Children who have altercations with law enforcement at an early age tend to be set a child on the road to delenquency. There is not much bite in being arrested at five years old, and by the time that child gets to middle school there isn't much consequence to being arrested. It becomes a "been there; done that" threat. I've taught several students that have spent time in juvenile facilities and they all have the attitude that there's not much else that can be done to them.
At five there's time to teach replacemnt behaviors rather than an up close and personal look at our judicial system. I think it's a shame that districts have chosen this route for such young students, who have no real concept of the consequenses.

To me calling the police on a five year old is a bit preposterous. It's a sign that the administration and staff of that school has lost control. There are more appropriate ways to restrain a student that needs to be restrained. Even in the event that a weapon has been brought to school, once the situation is de-escalated enough for someone to reach the child, other methods can be used. I'm not saying that this is not a matter for the police; it's a matter on which everyone should be highly concerned, but there are other ways of handling it that sends a better message.
Children who have altercations with law enforcement at an early age tend to be set a child on the road to delenquency. There is not much bite in being arrested at five years old, and by the time that child gets to middle school there isn't much consequence to being arrested. It becomes a "been there; done that" threat. I've taught several students that have spent time in juvenile facilities and they all have the attitude that there's not much else that can be done to them.
At five there's time to teach replacemnt behaviors rather than an up close and personal look at our judicial system. I think it's a shame that districts have chosen this route for such young students, who have no real concept of the consequenses.

The idea of one size fits all have never have and never will work. Black, African-American children need a program/curriculum designed by them and delivered to them from qualified instructors,that they can identify with, which is based on their culutral experiences and cultural perspective. One which ultimately will deliver the desired academic achievement results. Fifty (50) years later they are still TOYING with the same getting no-where ideas.

The idea of one size fits all has never and will never work, especially in this case. Black, African-American children need a program/curriculum designed by them and deliverd to them from qualified instructors, who the children can identify with. One which is based on their cultural experiences and cultural perspective. One which ultimately will produce the desired academic achievement results. It is amazing how fifty (50) years later, after Brown vs, we still see them TOYING with the same old insane get no-where ideas and solutions.Tell me, what would you expect?

I watched the televised tape. The five-year-old was out of control, aggressive, and destructive. The question asked here is the wrong question. The question is how does a five-year-old get to school thinking that he or she might express such behavior without any consequence whatsoever? The fact that the police are being sued is a perfect example that the public is more interested in modifying the behavior of the police and the teachers than the behavior of children. That lesson needs serious contemplation.

Thank you to Mr. Harshbarger for expressing the sentiment most people feel about this incident but are reluctant to express. The issue is about parenting children, not how schools are handling children who come to them already out of control. It would appear that this child has rarely heard the word "no" and has received few consequences for misbehaviors. Society needs to stop expecting educators to be parents. Only then can we get on with the business of preparing children for their futures.

Having spent time in an inner-city school during my short teaching career, I have seen more unruly and disrespectful behavior from Kindergartners than I could have ever imagined. I tell stories to my current colleagues and they think that I am kidding and are horrified to learn that I am not exaggerating. Handcuffing a five year old by police after the teachers and administration have tried to calm the student for an hour is perfectly acceptable. The child needs to learn at an early age that that behavior is completely unacceptable; they certainly are not learning that lesson at home. Yes, programs for educating teachers about proper methods for restraint are crucial in todays schools and other programs should be in place to help promote proper behavior. But, too often school districts jump on the bandwagon and use the latest and greatest approach for a couple of years until the new latest and greatest approach comes out. This is not only ineffective, but disheartening and frustrating to teachers who have to learn new techniques over and over again and see no results.

On the comment regarding children having altercations with police at an early age resulting in complacency....
So, what is the answer for a child that 'deserves' police interaction...wait and see?
THAT in itself is a huge problem with our society today...an 'it wasn't that bad' attitude. Kids need to know (STARTING AT HOME) that certain behaviors will not be tolerated or there will be consequences. If a child of 5 acts the way that child did, regardless of the color of his/her skin, they should be punished. I personally would have had that child out of my school long before the much televised incident. She had previous incidents with her horrible behavior, which had nothing whatsoever to do with her race. I'm so tired of hearing about how the system needs to be altered to suit the needs of various races. Amazingly, all of us raised in the 60's and 70's and prior to that managed to understand that there were rules and WE as children needed to obey them! Parents do not do their job properly if a child dares to act up like that child did in any place, let alone school.

The whole question of handcuffing this child needs to also be looked at from the point of view of safety. This child was out of control and was a danger to herself. By handcuffing her the police were able to stop her physical tantrum and the child was able to get herself under control. It is sad that such a severe restraint was necessary, but the child was a danger to herself and others. As a kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that an angry and violent 5 or 6 year old can hurt an adult. A child has no concept of how much damage they can do - they have little understanding of the consequences of their physical outbursts. It is up to the adults in the child's life to provide limits to keep the child safe; as well as the other adults and children involved.

I have to admit that as distasteful as restraining a 5 year-old seems, sometimes such restraint is necessary, for the child's safety, as well as for those around her. Yes, it would be nice if all teacher could be trained to handle this sort of situation. It would also be nice if all teachers were trained to handle the hundreds of other potentially harmful situations that one might imagine. But, hey guys, a teacher is not responsible for knowing what to do in every possible situation. And, who's going to pay for all of this training? The teacher's job is to teach. Okay, maybe a teacher should be expected to know what to do for a limited number of situations. But, where were the parent? Didn't they know the child had problems? What right did they have to send a child like that to school knowing she might be a danger? We need to get the parents involved in education, whether they like it or not. Let's face it. The child is the parents' responsibility, period. They should be held accountable for the child's behavior. Others should not be expected to cope with it while the parents turn their backs. And as for the racial thing, the world shouldn't have to change accomodate a particular race. That's not something that happens overnight. The person should learn to behave in a way that enables her to coexist in the world with the other races.

Along with the questions related to parenting or a lack of such and considerations related to methods for calming an out of control five year old we need to add this question. When is it appropriate? Should we wait until they are in third grade or middle school or even high school before schools use a police interventions to assist with student who have these issues? Clearly the "buck" needs to stop at the first possible moment. It is my feeling that school districts and staff should stop thinking about how the students and their families will "lawyer up" when considering a course of action. Maybe it is time to take these matters to courts on a regular basis. Then some of the issues that have become the problems in many schools will come into public view. It may let the rest of society see the state of our studetns and demand that they receive the right start rather than the right test.

As the article notes there are better ways to address these situations & responsibility should start with the adults. Five years ago our 11 yr old son was hauled off in real handcuffs for fleeing a Clinical Day School program that was a "one size fits all" approach to children with problems. He made the wisest decision that day -- the school has revamped the program & we've learned that his aggressiveness was caused by Paxil. As I said, he chose to run from "professionals" confronting him on his behavior rather than to lash out. The adults called the police "due to policy".
He's doing much better due to APPROPRIATE interventions but that incident still troubles him & us. Let's hope adults can learn techniques that are effective for all and get away from "power tripping".

As the parent of a now fourteen year old who was arrested at age 6 at school, I can tell you there is frequently lots going on.

I have seen the tape and I did not witness any clear boundaries being set by the adult. She seemed to be waving her hands in front of her face and explaining "you have no right to do that," as if the child would say OK, and then stop. A clear response would be something along the lines of "you must sit in this chair until you are in control of yourself and then we can talk," acompanied by appropriate physical guidance to get the child there and enforce the expectation.

The notion that if the adults cannot hit a child then they are helpless and powerless is absurd. We don't know the previous history in this case, but I can tell you that in my son's case, it involved an "intervention specialist," untrained in formulating a behavior plan (instead providing an escalating series of punishments aimed at justifying removal), a teacher who did not buy into the concept of implementing a consistent plan aimed at changing behavior--and wanted him gone, and a principal who wanted to leverage a move to a "special school."

In fact the school won, and my son lost--he was shuttled off to an overcrowded building with test scores on the bottom rungs, where his new best friend tried to jump out the school window before being hospitalized.

I have been captivated by the new "nanny shows" on TV for a number of reasons--including the fact that they center on middle-class two-parent families dealing with outrageous behavior, but also because they demonstrate results through building the skills of parents to respond clearly and consistently to behavior. Certainly many parents can benefit from this, but so, too, can teachers and school administrators.

I feel sorry for JS Cervenka and XXPeter. They are blaming the school for a problem that obviously stems from a mental health problem or a home problem. We really can not blame this on the school. He has not even been in public school for a year. And XXPeter you should be ashamed of you self for suggesting a different standard of behavior for African American males. I teach predominately African American students and they have excellent manners and are very well behaved most of the time. When they are not, consequences are immediate and appropriate. Have a "different" standard or code smacks of "separate but equal" and we know that does not work. Let's give ALL students the tools to be successful in the real world.

Although I personally agree that the choice to handcuff a 5 year appears harsh, the question remains at what age would it be appropriate to take measures in order to stop the havoc the child is creating at school? Everyone (except this child's parents and family...of course) would agree that behavior such as what we all witnessed on television, never belongs in school and if allowed, creates an environment where no one can teach, much less learn. Race should never come into play here. This boils down to right and wrong. What we expect of our children at home teaches them how to react to society. Behavior such as this stems from home and is not the fault of educators. How do we go about educating our parents on raising children who make respectful choices and recognize right and wrong? Until society embraces responsible parenting, issues such as this will continue to occur.

As a teacher who has been trained to calm and restrain children, I have to say that some children do not respond due to a variety of reasons. Some children have learned at an early age that escalating their behavior to frightening and destructive heights will effectively convince adults to give them what they want. Some children come from homes where extreme violence is the order of the day. I have successfully restrained children 5 to 8 years old to prevent danger to others, however I have also backed off to prevent personal injury. I know a male teacher who received a serious back injury at the hands of a violent elementary school child. I get realy tired of people who have not been in today's schools making judgements about how schools are run and how children should be handled. The handcuffing incident is not the norm of the day for discipline. It is an extreme measure reserved for extreme behavior.

The point most often overlooked in this case concerns the parent of the child. There had been several incidents with this child. The parent,informed of her rights, denied the use of any phyisical contact. (this would also include comforting her after the handcuffing) The parent effectively disallowed the school personnel to use any other type of behavior intervention such as CPI that uses non-violent techniques. If the faculty of the school had placed their hands on her in any type of restraints she would have sued. It is a case of "Damned if you do and Damned if you don't". I taught in some of the poorest inner city schools in the South in the 1980's and felt safe, accepted, and respected by my students. I'm not sure that I would still feel that way today. Schools are not as safe and it has nothing to do with race, it has to do with parenting skills. Parents,like those of the five year old, do not have the skills to discipline their child and will not allow anyone else to discipline them either. Parental training (from other agencies-not the school) would be helpful. That is the place to take action. Teachers and the schools have enough on their plates without slapping their hands and preventing them from doing their job, educating children. In the meantime, educators have to take whatever steps are necessary to insure their own safety and the other students in their charge. If teachers cannot practice safe non-violent behavior intereventions then the police are the only avenue open.

One of the problems faced by teachers in elementary school is that some parents believe nothing needs to be done at home in terms of teaching limits to their kids. Neuroscience has shown that the best time for a child to develop emotional control is until the age of three. At this age the child is at home, with parents or caregivers. Unfortunately, many transfer this responsibility to the school, at a later age. Depending on how the child was brought up, there is not much the teachers can do. The question that should be asked is: how much should teachers have to put up with before transfering the "problem" to the next level?

The issue of private daycares and HeadStarts expelling young children who exhibit significant behaviors is heartbreaking. I am involved in an initiative through our State Department of Education to provide on-site support and training of these staff. Many of the children we assist are either diagnosed with or suspected to have an autism spectrum disorder and these numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. There needs to be a continuity between home-school-medical facets, but when children don't get what they need at home, for whatever reason, I'm glad we are able to provide help and boundaries for the time the student is in school. We must not lose sight of the positive impact dedicated teachers and careproviders have if appropriate training is provided to them.

In many elementary schools teachers are being hit, kicked, and spit on daily by their students. Is it fair to ask a teacher to walk into classrooms with these students without being able to do anything to protect themselves.
The laws have restricted the teacher's rights to the point in which teachers are leaving their classrooms in ambulances. Is it right to take away the last bit of protection for these teachers? Society today may not want to believe a seven year old is capable of such violence, I ask those people to visit a classroom today. It is not the classrooms we remember from our days of school.

I have been a classroom teacher and an administrator for over 25 years and have experienced over the last ten years a lack of support from the parents whenever they're notified of their children's misbehavior. They take their frustrations to extremes that are expressed with threats and lawsuits. Parents need to support school personnel by taking the responsibility of correcting their children's behavior and finding solutions to the problems. There are parents who have negative feelings about school because of their personal experiences as students themselves. However, they need to recognize the need to separate their personal feelings and address their children's problems in school objectively and with the desire to resolve them. Keep in mind that students whose parents express negative feelings about school tend to manipulate these feelings when they encounter problems in adhering to school policies. Parents need to take responsibility to hold their children accountable for their behavior in school and accept the fact that their children are in school at least seven hours long and the school personnel must ensure that the school environment is safe and conducive to learning. Teachers have a challenging job of ensuring that everyone is learning and preparing to become productive citizens in our society. That is not an easy job by any means. Threats and lawsuits are not the responses needed because these only serve to force the school staff to ignore the negative behavior that is currently plaguing our school system. Unless the laws stand behind the schools, the number of problematic students will continue to increase and the country as a whole will falter because the future lies in the academic and, more importantly, the social skills preparation of our youth. The present involvement of police officers in dealing with student misbehavior is in response to the lack of parent support in the schools.

While it is the school's responsibility to maintain safety and order, it is difficult for me to accept how a five year old could pose such a threat. It is clear that when any individual poses an immediate threat to themselves and/or to others, including adults, then common sense requires authority to take whatever steps necessary to take control of the situation. If my memory serves me correctly, there were no immediate circumstances that made this young child pose such a threat to an administrator beyond the possibility of exhibiting some oppositional defiance. Administrators are trained in maintaining control as well as seeking the correct resources, in a timely manner, for such occurances.

I feel that most situations do not have to go into extremes unless the subject is in direct danger to him/herself and/or others. My questions in this case have to do with what may have transpired before the 'need' to contact law enforcement. Perhaps issues transpired beforehand that propelled the response from the child that made the administrator react as she did.

When the child gets older, and the incidences become more complex, my opinions become a case-by-case response. But in THIS situation involving a five year old, I stand by my initial opinion.

Handcuffing young children should NEVER be an option. These days, schools are expected to be educators, as well as nurses, doctors, social workers, psychologists, and, yes, even parents. Behavior issues can be traced back to parenting skills or lack thereof. I believe that if parents are given the skills and means necessary to deal with their family issues, then we will see a decrease in behavior issues. I know that is much easier said than done, however we have to try. There are many, many circumstances leading up to behavior issues in schools. A one-size-fits-all approach is never going to work. There has to be some flexibility in the system to address a variety of needs. As a society we are expecting too much from the schools and not enough from the other arenas. Sometimes the school is the only stable force in these children's lives. In an ideal world, all parents have to be involved in their childrens' lives, which includes their education. In the real world that doesn't always happen for a variety of reasons. I think there needs to be a community effort to ensure that ALL children and their parents are receiving what they need. There needs to be a bridge with the health care issues, social issues, parenting issues, and educational issues. Until we all step up as a community and help out nothing will change.

In the late 90's I was a principal of an elementary school with all of the citie's 502.4 self-contained classrooms. We had a kindergartner who next year was a first grader. In first grade he flew into a rage, and actually picked up a 4 drawer steel file cabinet weighing over 100 lbs. and threw it across the room about 9 feet, narrowly missing the special ed teacher. He wasn't even 90 pounds himself soaking wet. But the adreneline enables them to put themselves and others at great risk. We did call the police, the ambulance, and his parents, and he was strapped in and taken in for a 24 hr intake hospital observation. That was a Friday. He was back in school on Monday like nothing happened. What precipitated the rage? He didn't want to go to his father's house for the weekend. Did he do it again? Not on the same scale, but other eruptions occurred on a fairly frequent basis. So, I would have to say "Are there situations where handcuffs are necessary?" Most definately yes.

We had to send out a 10 year old girl in handcuffs because she attacked and assaulted the special ed teacher, and would not come out of her rages kicking, biting and screaming. After teaching SPED for almost 20 years, it was the first time we encouraged this teacher to file a report. We did, and the girl got court-ordered counseling sessions for her family, which she desperately needed.

So, again, yes. This was a combination of Boston North Shore, inner city/suburban/well to do families whose children have behavior and emotional problems. We still have an obligation to protect all our school's children and teachers. Sometimes from their own classmates.

I also was a high school principal later. And people who have asked me if the TV show Boston Public that ran a few years ago was real, and I would tell them: "More real that you want to know." It was situational and very real. Many scenes were played out and most all were based on real incidents.

Our educational system needs help to survive and to maintain itself. Unless we support and mentor teachers we will not be witness to an educational system in the future as we know it now. And - that will be a good thing. It has to improve or we all fail. Thanks for listening.

By law the school is responsible for the safety of an individual as well as all students. School personnel are also responsible for teaching. If a behavior is disruptive of the teaching/learning process, they have the right and responsibility to eliminate the disruption immediately.

In our teacher preparation courses, we teach them to use the "LEAST" approach--beginning with a response to the unacceptable behavior, which is noticeable only to the student in question, to the involvement of physical restraint and/or other adults.

Maybe a padded "time out" room is needed in each school.

During 30 years as an educator, I have seen the same types of violent behavior from all ages of humans. Maybe, some developmental levels are more amenable to rehabilatation. I sure hope there professionals out there who are qualified to rehabilatate these individuals, because teachers have neither the preparation nor the time to teach, comply with political whims, and "fix" students with this level of emotional and/or pyschological problems.

In response to Teaching/4ever. I walk into a calssroom of emotionally disturbed high school students every day, knowing that one could go off at any time. I also know that I have training and skills that allow me to be confident in my ability to handle situation involving student violence. My school district believes in prevention, so we make sure that all of our teachers are trained in crisis intervention, and that there is a special team to handle crisis such as this. The problem is that many teachers are not getting training in behavior management and crisis intervention which are key to de-escalating student behavior.
Yes, the parents should be accountable for there child's behavior, and in the perfect teaching utopia, they are. The reality is that the students who act out are rarely having their emotional needs met at home, and their parents are rarely supportive. Our jobs as teachers, beyond imparting knowledge, is to make sure they have a safe environment to do it in. Teachers cannot do this without training and it's becoming more critical to the profession to have these skills. Districts could save thousands by getting teachers the training they need and avoiding law suits.
According to the law, emotionally disturbed students have the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. The problem is many regular classroom teachers are not equiped to handle the challenging students who come to them.
To say this is the parents problem or the schools problem is to simplify the issue. This is a societal problem that needs addressing, but teachers also need to be properly prepared for the students that come into their classrooms.

I have a 7 year old son who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, severe sensory integration dysfunction and mild frontal lobe atrophy. These are conditions that are accepted world-wide, are neuorlogically based, and are not caused or cured by the parents or anyone else. They combine to cause my son to have great difficulty in processing information (from all of his senses) in the split second fashion as most people are able. On rare occasions my son will become so overwhelmed that he goes into what we call his vapor lock state. It is clearly identifiable where he becomes very rigid and quiet and anything he does manage to say will generally be inappropriate. When he is in a vapor lock state, at least two potential options of dealing with him are available: Option # 1 - you can stand over him and give him an ultimatum to comply then touch him in some manner to compel him to obey. This will inevitably lead to a reaction much like we all saw on the videotape of the 5 year old in Florida (as has led to the reaction on the 3 occasions where this has occurred in his 2 years in school). Or, Option # 2 - you can stand a bit away from him, get on eye level, clamly ask him if you can approach him, talk to him and de-escalate the situation. This option will inevitably lead to him (with help) being able to calm himself and he can then accept most any consequence that is fair for the situation.

Is it reasonable for me to expect that Option # 2 be tried before Option # 1 at school? The administrators at his school seem to feel that Option # 2 is coddling and teaches the other students in the classroom that immediate, unquestioned compliance is not necessary. I feel it is a person-centered approach that respects his disabilities while not letting him off the hook in the end. I can tell you this, if Option # 1 is used and the police are called and my son is carted off in handcuffs, I would do whatever I thought was necessary to make sure it never happened again.

BTW - the 5 year old in Florida was seated clamly in a chair immediately before she was actually handcuffed. No one's safety was at issue at that moment. So, is it still justified?

I too watched the videotape so prominently shown. I doubt that I saw the full range of the child's behavoirs, but media gave me a pretty good view of the child's reaction to being handcuffed. Although I am sure a large teacher/principal/custodian could have removed the child from the table top, they are not allowed to do so. The child seemed more in control by the time police arrive and the decsion to handcuff may have been overkill. HOWEVER, I have been in stiuations where both my and my other students' safety was in danger and handcuffing would have been helpful. One such incident involved a youngster who was in second grade, yet was about a year and half older than his classmates. He was larger and stronger than everyone else in the class. The child was a diagnosed Fetal Alcohol Effect student and had some serious behavior problems. While roller skating in the gym, a classmate "cut in front" of him. The student in question chased him down, threw him to the ground and proceeded to kick him with his metal roller skates. I rushed in from behind the boy, pulled him off the students while trapping his arms to his sides. I was bitten on the arm (skin broken)and repeatedly kicked in the legs with the "roller skated" feet as I waited for a student to run to the office to get help. The ensuing trip to office garnered the principal similar injury. The Village Police and Security Officer was called and the boy wasn't handcuffed. The boy's rage had burned out by the policeman's arrival. Yes, the boy was expelled for five days...this of course was simply silly, as his parent was pretty much incapacitated by his own drug/alcohol use during the expulsion. What is obvious here is that the boy had been handicapped by the irresponsibility of his parents and was continuing to have his emotional and mental growth hampered by his parents continued substance dependance. The poor kid is between a rock and a hard place through very little fault of his own....yet, he put others in danger. Later in the year he brought a gun to school....I have no answers here, only the sneaking suspicion that handcuffing MAY have made an impression on him. But I do know that what really was needed was a responsible parent, or for the child to be given some opportunity for growth somehow.
School administrators and teachers are forced to make quick decisions to ensure the safety of all. This may be one time where it simply was a case of better safe than sorry...and I'm for it.

JS Cervenka, bless you. Yes, Yes, Yes, our emotionally affected students have a right to a free and public education. And, indeed it is best viewed as a shared responsibility.

But, as the "responsible parent" who stepped into my son's life after prenatal exposure and inherited disorder, I can't tell you how much blame has been directed at me. I understand the anger at how difficult it is to work with a child who cannot always respond with behavior that makes an adult feel that they are successful (imagine what it's like for him!)--but please don't blame me just because I am available.

A decade ago the untrained teachers argument carried some weight--but how long does it take to learn? Believe me, my son came to me with the warranty voided and directions missing, but I have been able to learn. Like Diana, when hard experience, staying up late to comb the internet and spending afterschool time in counseling and therapy instead of soccer and scouts, pay off with some knowledge about what works, it is very frustrating that those same teachers who plead lack of training want to be the experts that refuse to follow the IEP and do it their own, unsuccessful, way.

I am responding to this discussion as a parent, although I am also an educator. I have three young boys of which the oldest is seven. When our first son came along, I jumped in feet first to all the parenting books, magazines, and publications I could get my hands on. By our third son, I was so sick of reading the parenting guides that I had unsubscribed to any magazines we belonged to and gave away any books we had purchased. These publications seem to present children as objects to be worshipped--as though every family is ruled by the children. My husband and I instead borrowed the common sense, self-discipline, and personal responsiblity our parents taught us and have raised our children with it. And I'm tired of hearing the excuse, "Well, I'm a single parent. I can only do so much". My husband travels extensively for his job--he can be gone weeks at a time with only being home on the weekends. And yet I seem to be able to impart in the boys a sense of personal repsonsibility and respect. My mother also did this with my brothers and I while my dad would be gone a year at a time while in the military. I have personally seen in our neighborhood two extremes of parenting--one where the parents/parent neglects the children and the othere where the parents smother the children with excuses and reasons for bad behavior. Both of these parenting styles (or lack of) has pushed more responsiblity onto educators to instill in children morals that should be taught at home. In a society where lack of personal responsibility is rampant, educators can only do so much to restrain an out-of-control child before the fear of being sued takes hold. Parents want teachers to control their children, but allow the teachers no means by which to do so. And I don't mean allowing corporal punishment--now-a-days, god forbid a teacher should raise their voice to a child! Parents will cry foul when their children are punished or they feel their children's personal rights are being impeded upon. It's sad, as a society we have gone to extremes to protect children from predators, but not to extremes when it comes to punishing the predators--this line of thinking has backfired. Children have a right to say no, but not to the basic morals and societal obligations that should be taught at home. It's a dismal commentary on our society when adults are left with only an option to handcuff a five year old because every other option has been taken away.

I have been a classroom teacher and an administrator for over 25 years and have experienced over the last ten years a lack of support from the parents whenever they're notified of their children's misbehavior. They take their frustrations to extremes that are expressed with threats and lawsuits. Parents need to support school personnel by taking the responsibility of correcting their children's behavior and finding solutions to the problems. There are parents who have negative feelings about school because of their personal experiences as students themselves. However, they need to recognize the need to separate their personal feelings and address their children's problems in school objectively and with the desire to resolve them. Keep in mind that students whose parents express negative feelings about school tend to manipulate these feelings when they encounter problems in adhering to school policies. Parents need to take responsibility to hold their children accountable for their behavior in school and accept the fact that their children are in school at least seven hours long and the school personnel must ensure that the school environment is safe and conducive to learning. Teachers have a challenging job of ensuring that everyone is learning and preparing to become productive citizens in our society. That is not an easy job by any means. Threats and lawsuits are not the responses needed because these only serve to force the school staff to ignore the negative behavior that is currently plaguing our school system. Unless the laws stand behind the schools, the number of problematic students will continue to increase and the country as a whole will falter because the future lies in the academic and, more importantly, the social skills preparation of our youth. The present involvement of police officers in dealing with student misbehavior is in response to the lack of parent support in the schools.

I have been a classroom teacher and an administrator for over 25 years and have experienced over the last ten years a lack of support from the parents whenever they're notified of their children's misbehavior. They take their frustrations to extremes that are expressed with threats and lawsuits. Parents need to support school personnel by taking the responsibility of correcting their children's behavior and finding solutions to the problems. There are parents who have negative feelings about school because of their personal experiences as students themselves. However, they need to recognize the need to separate their personal feelings and address their children's problems in school objectively and with the desire to resolve them. Keep in mind that students whose parents express negative feelings about school tend to manipulate these feelings when they encounter problems in adhering to school policies. Parents need to take responsibility to hold their children accountable for their behavior in school and accept the fact that their children are in school at least seven hours long and the school personnel must ensure that the school environment is safe and conducive to learning. Teachers have a challenging job of ensuring that everyone is learning and preparing to become productive citizens in our society. That is not an easy job by any means. Threats and lawsuits are not the responses needed because these only serve to force the school staff to ignore the negative behavior that is currently plaguing our school system. Unless the laws stand behind the schools, the number of problematic students will continue to increase and the country as a whole will falter because the future lies in the academic and, more importantly, the social skills preparation of our youth. The present involvement of police officers in dealing with student misbehavior is in response to the lack of parent support in the schools.

The better question is; Why do these children feel they have the right to behave this way? Why was the mmother unable to come and get the child?
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When you have a child, it's your responsibility to have a plan in case they are sick, or need to leave the school. Likewise, as a parent, you need to monitor what your child is exposed to. Look at what is on TV, what are we really teaching our children? We see a reality show, and have the coping skills to sift through everyone's behavior on the show. We, as adults, can say whether it is funny, or fair, or demented. Our kids do own that filter yet. Look at anything that is on TV. Now let's look at the genetically altered/prepared food we feed them. I actually had a parent, very proud of themself, tell me that they cooked a home-made meal one night for the family. It was Hamburger Helper and a sliced tomato.
Our schools have very little left that they can actually do to punish or contain a child. We only have the police, to come in and help us out.
No, I don't think it is the best choice; however, we have no other choice. Most instructors, aides and principals are working in elementary buildings because they do, understand the growth and development of young children. They do, understand how to handle them. For someone outside the field to look at a sound bite on television and make a decision about the qualifications of the personnel at that school building is inappropriate and wrong.

Ms. Rohler said it beautifully. Where have all the parents gone? That having been said, does everyone really believe that the police were actually the best agency to call? How about the state social services agency, or paramedics both of who could provide a more appropriate set of restraints for the child versus the police who are ill equipped to handle the needs of a child in this kind of distress. As a veteran teacher in an inner city school believe me this sort of outburst is far too common, but lest we forget regardless of all else, she is five and it seems to me she has been abandoned emotionally on every level, by her father, mother, teacher, classmates, principals… the list could go on and on. Here is my last question, what will be the consequence that society will now pay for failing this child?

Start with the premise: Behavior is communication.

If you are at the point of punishing this behavior that has exceeded all expectations....what you are doing isn't working.

Once the behavior has occurred and you are unable to stop it, your "punishment" approach isn't working.

Set up a plan to reward the behavior you want to see to extinguish the behavior you don't want to see. Positive behavior support can be the only way to gain cooperation from some people/children. Think about it...if someone wants you to do something, what would make you more willing to cooperate? Knowing you are getting something positive you value in return or knowing you are going to get punished if you don't....
I was raised by a Marine, so the threat of punishment worked for me...and for one of my children. The "hairy eyeball" was all she needed. But for my son, time outs were not a deterrent. So, another approach was necessary.

Back to the premise: if behavior is communication, what was she telling them? She needs more clear boundaries, visual supports that accompany verbal instruction? Was she seeking attention? Any attention good or bad would be "worth it" to her. Maybe this behavior has escalated to avoid a task that she REALLY didn't want to do or didn't understand. What makes it "worth it" for her to go to such extremes? She might have been trying to avoid something she found very, very challenging.

No, it is never ok to call the police and handcuff a child. The fact it got to that point is the failure of the adults in her life....all the adults.

Earlier in my life, I taught Pre-Kinder and had experiences where students threw chairs and objects all over the classroom and were physically and verbally agressive to me and to their peers. This is a result of lack of mental health interventions. These children are either not getting disciplined at home or have a conduct disorder that has not been diagnosed. The role of the teacher is to refer this student to the school psychologist before it gets to this point. The school psychologists can give some recomendations to parents ,teachers and intervene with the student about the behavior. But, I understand what it is to have an unruly student that gets aggressive in front of your other students and yourself..one feels without control over a situation and the first thing that comes to mind is: how do I calm him/her down? This event of calling the police was the reaction of frustration...

Yes it is when students are out of control and the school has ran out of options. The police officers 1st duty is to get control of the situation and perserve the life and limb of all involved if possible. Of all film I saw on TV and the Net this child was out of control and a danger to herself and all who were in contact with her. The question to be asked is why that mother had not trained her child better i.e. to respect authority figures and to have self control.

I found it interesting that this mother, who could not be available to come to school when her youngster was wreaking havoc, suddenly had the resources and ability to contact an attorney who was standing before news cameras less than two hours after the incident. Similarly, a six year old boy in the same school district decided to bolt out the door, ran from school grounds, and got himself struck by an automobile. While the child was lying in the intensive care ward in critical condition, the mother, again within hours, was standing in front of the school with her attorney by her side. Personally, if my baby was critically injured in a hospital, I'd be nowhere but right at his side praying for his recovery. But this mom, and her attorney, were out giving news interviews talking about how negligent the school district was in letting her child run away. Incidentally, the mother with the out-of-control handcuffed five-year-old did find a lawyer within minutes of the handcuffing but later news reports indicated that she discharged the lawyer after signing a contract with the Maury Povich Show. Parents that permit such behavior of their children and obtain attorneys when teachers and administrators try to do the right thing should be investigated for using their children as pawns in a scheme to defraud through litigation. The school districts can, but often do not, counter-sue these sort of parents. If these moms can find the same energy to parent rather than swiftly drop the TV remote and waddle off to a lawyer, we'd all be the better for it. There is no racial correlation to this phenomenon of parents who watch carefully, waiting for the chance to hit the litigation lottery just as soon as someone in authority gives them the opportuity. It will only stop when our judges recognize this and begin penalizing parents for exploiting their own children.

Mr. Lowengard:

As the parent of a child with identified behavioral and learning disabilities I have frequently gotten legal advice about the best ways to ensure that my son gets the education that he has a legal right to. You can be sure that I would make a call as I left my job (not the TV) on my way if the school called to say that the police had just handcuffed my five year old.

I have otherwise found that the district (who has already consulted their lawyer, to be sure--as the teacher will have consulted the union's legal counsel), is generally in a hurry to give me something to sign, or explain why what they did in the "crisis" was the only option that they had available, or how they were only protecting my son, etc.

Although it hasn't happened lately, I used to get frequent "crisis" calls, indicating that my son couldn't be "handled," and I would have to come get him or else they would have to call the police, or security, etc (Somehow they never thought to call the intervention specialist, the mental health work, consult the IEP behavior plan, or any of the resources that I worked so hard to make available). Typically I would arrive to find my son sleeping in someone's office. After a few "wolf" calls like that one learns to respond with reasoned caution when the phone call comes from the school.

It is extremely unfortunate that the situation had to escalate to a level where handcuffs were necessary. However, in my fifteen years as behavioral disorder's teacher, it is needed. Many students that are coming to school today have no boundaries and some parents have not established any discipline within the home. Ninety-nine percent of students in schools will never even come close to this type of behavior. One percent will have difficulty with structure and expectations and that is the group of students that may require schools to do things that were once unthinkable.

Unfortunately, bad parents have children that have to be educated too... Sometimes they are as badly behaved as their children.. which is probably this case with this mother.. but sometimes they are well educated advocates for their children. They have IEPs and are versed in their "entitlements". They aren't exploiting their children so much as making it someone else's problem that they thought a firm boundary got in the way of their attachment parenting. I can't tell you how many children I've taught with parents who's adult ambivalence with authority has disabled their ability to parent. That's fine... be any kind of parent you want... but other children have entitlements too. The parent that couldn't manage her ambivalence about disciplining her toddler leaves the school with the problem of socializing a badly raised child. Meanwhile, the teacher who's spending all her time managing this little girl's fits can't give my well behaved, quieter child the time he or she deserves. The amount of time the teacher has to spend dealing with this one child takes time and focus from every other child. If my child were in a class with a child who had chronic discipline issues, I would absolutely remove my child the class and find a better placement.

Jane:

I think the problem with your observation is that I don't see any evidence of firm boundaries being set with this child in the school. I just watched the film again yesterday. The principal is clearly acting on some approach/avoidance, passive/aggressive notion, most likely played for the camera--which at that point is not at static device, but actively panning and offering close-ups (I would guess it was being operated by the teacher who wanted to document just how bad the child could be). The "hands off" argument holds little weight because the principal takes the child off the table four or five times, but always sets her down, jumps back and allows her to get back up.

It would look to me like the child is actively seeking boundaries, and when none are set (a pretty insecure feeling if you are a five-year-old dependent on the adults charged with caring for you) she gets more and more outrageous in trying to force the adults to grow up and take responsibility for her.

My best guess is that the underlying motivation for this bad behavior on the part of the adults is that they want something from the parent that they are not getting and are using outrageous means to either force compliance or force the child out to another setting.

Certainly home life affects what children know and expect, but the expectations of school are not the same, and unless educators are prepared to explicitly teach the behaviors expected in school, and to continually reinforce them, there is little that a parent can do from the outside to fix things.

I say that educators should start with educators on their deficits (one of which may be the ability to forge good working relationships with parents). A good start would be to have a good behaviorist review the tape and discuss alternate responses to the child's behavior.

I realize to see a 5 year old child in hand cuffs is shocking. However the schools are limited on the contact that they can do. The child was hitting people and destroying property. no one knows the things that this school tried to do before calling the police. I have been severely injured by a child kicking me. It is time for parents and educators to work together to solve these problems. The parents of that child need to work with the school to find an answer to this childs behavior problems not againts them. The child clearly has issues that need addressed.

NEVER!

I teach in a residential treatment facility and the five year old I viewed is a prime of example of what I EVENTUALLY see in my classroom at 15-17years old. By then they have been "beat down by the system" but NOT! taken in hand by any responsible parent or guardian. I am not sure if handcuffing was the way to go, but calling the police may have been the only solution. I have PLENTY of kids that now are "locked up" with me that assaulted teachers, foster parents, peers and POLICE before the age of 13. At five, this is where it starts...I believe it can be stopped, but that would mean the mother would have to parent RESPONSIBLY..and frankly, seeing society the way I do, day to day...well, I guess we're just hoping for too much.

The fact that the police are being sued is preposterous. They were absolutely doing the correct thing in handcuffing the girl, as she was being violent and destructive. If the police had encountered an adult in a similar situation, they definitely would have handcuffed the person. I believe that youth should be treated equally, and therefore they must have the same responsibilities, too. Please do not say that the child doesn't know what she did was wrong; I know for a fact that children today do have morals and intelligence, and they should be treated the same way as adults.

I had had a situation when I taught in alternative education. I had a student that was having a bad day. This 6th grader was flailing wildly at an old glass window in a school. He was just about to go throught the window. I instinctively grabbed him in an attempt to save the student from grave injury from the window. My thanks was to have this student get upset because I was touching him and subsequently he stabbed the back of my hand with a pencil, which led me to bleed all over the class. (incidentally, I can still see the lead that I have in my hand 5 years later) My desire to help the student was greater that worrying about my hand.

Handcuffs could have done me a world of good here.

I have worked for 10 years with children who are considered a danger tothemselves or others/ or havebeen a danger to themselves or others. The youngest child that we worked with was 3 years oldin our program in Maine. The youngest in our sister program in Massachuettes was 2 1/2 years old. There are many factors that can cause a child to be a danger: genetics, family make up, various disorders (Tourettes, Asbergers, Autism,retardation, etc... just to name a few)
Many young families are afraid to descipline their children for fearing that other people will cry abuse, or if they do try to descipline their children they are afraid that their children will not love them and be considered mean to their children. we no longer have extended families where family members are around to teach young parents coping skills to help them to descipline threir children in love and not in anger, children also need to be taught good coping skills as well. What do children need to do when they are upset and angry? Today it takes early childhood interventionist,sometimes theraputic preschools, family couseling, life strategists, teachers,administrators, extended family members, everyone this child comes incontact with to be on the same page, everyone working together on prevention. Passing the blame will not help this child or other children when they are in crisis. At times there are not many choices to be had when they are endanger of hurting them selves or others. Their are many ways of trying to defuse a situation and they she all be tried first, but when all else fails the it may require a child to be hand cuffed in order to protect the other students. Then an intervention plan needs to be put in place in the school, in the home, and in the community (like training officers in dealing with these types of children in the future). In Maine teachers are required to take courses in crisis intervention which includes how to defuse students which includes physical restraints as a last resort.

No one want to have to place cuff on a young child, but there are times when there isn't a choice!!! the other students and school stuff must be protected as well. Other parents may bring a law suit if their child gets hurt at school. It is not a win-win situation. It is always a loose/loose situation when a child has to behand cuffed for eveyone involed. It takes more than a village today to raise happy health children it takes everyone!!!! doing their part and not playing the blame game!!! It should be where do we go from here? What can we do to prevent this from happening again? How do we go about helping this child, the family, the teachers, other students,school administrations,the community,etc.? What kind of support does everyone need in the chain to help in these types of situations?

At first review, one wants to blame the school, or the parent or any one you can point out as the villain. How about lets look at an education structure that has pitted schools and parents against each other. A system that says only educators know what best for students in a classroom. A system that does not allow parents to get involved in education planning, design or choosing the teacher whom can best work with their children in the classroom. A system that does not encourage dialogue with parents and teachers that will promote an education atmosphere that discourages unacceptable behaviors of students. Parent advocates must step up organize and fight for inclusion of parents in all areas of education design and delivery if a good education system is truly what we want.

I am so glad that there actually are people out there that recognize the significant need for better values and basic respect to be taught to our young. I work in an elementary school and am appauled by the attitudes and behaviors I see in such young people. As was said in another entry, kindergarteners are just as bad, if not worse, than some high schoolers! It's amazing! It's sad! It's a definite sign that we need to do more - and fast!

I am presently pursuing a degree in education but am also a parent that has recently been in the public schools. Do I think a 5 year old should be handcuffed? My first response is no, however, if I had a child in the room with a completely out of control child, my first concern is for my child. If the only measure to control behavior that could harm the child or others is one so severe as handcuffing, then so be it.
Truly there is more to examine with this child and her family. Children of today have many more "adult" variables to contend with than those of my generation. It is sad that everyone is looking for "someone" to blame for the ills of society. Instead of being a part of the problem, many of us need to look internally for the role we can play in reshaping what appears to be a nation out of control!

I think handcuffing a student (including a five year old) should always be one of the many options available on a continuum of interventions (obviously it should be one of the last one's used). I agree most strongly with the person that earlier indicated we can either handcuff them at an early age, to let them know their behavior is unacceptable, or we can be doing it as a Middle School or High School student.

This is becoming more common and nobody white or black thinks there is anything wrong with this discipline. And the only time this seems to occur is among children of color. This is the educational institution's way of introducing a life in jail by handcuffing children at all ages. Is it right to handcuff children is as questionable as Laura Bush in the Middle East acting as ambassador. It just doesn't fix anything or make any sense.

I think a straight-jacket would have been better -- for the mother.

If the mother hadn't made every move to prevent the school administration from imposing reasonable restraint and discipline on the child there would have been no need to call the cops. Parents who threaten lawsuits to get unreasonable special treatment for their kids should expect an unreasonable response.

Dear Handcuffing Children, Are you writing to "Dear Abby" are participating in a discussion?

Come on now, this conversation has been going on for over a week now and no one has thrown the race card... Knock it off! The issue of discipline with our children, white, black or purple is clearly a universally shared problem that extends beyond race. We live in a society where families have changed. More single parents, fewer societal stigmas, dwindling communities, no more small towns, more freedom, more information and the force of the NCLB pushing down curriculum and stealing childhoods.
The conversation and the dialogue goes way beyond your narrow minded pin headed statement.

I am so in agreement with those people who are reminded that the school system is being held responsible for training and disciplining children whose parents have not. too many times is instruction time taken away because of the same children and parents are quick to blame the school, teacher and everybody else except the child and themselves for lack of discipline and rules of obedience..while I too have a few concerns and actually though why didn't they just restrain her..with so many parents ready to sue for the least little thing, I think they did what was in the best interest of the school and the child. children must be taught that there are consequences for your behavior and some behaviors the consequences are beyond time out and punishment. we recently had a child pull the fire alarm at school without any expulsion or serious punishment besides being put in a kindergarten class..is this real..no if they do this in the local wal-mart mom and child will be on tv with a hefty fine and possible jail time.
let's teach our children now to prevent this later.

Has our world gone crazy - believing it is appropriate or acceptable to be handcuffing a 6 year old child?

Education Week recently conducted a study where Louisiana received a D+ in school climate. After having a special education child in South Louisiana schools for the last 8 1/2 years, the D+ is well earned and should have really been more like a F. And, believe it or not, destructive school climates can corrupt good kids. Although many may believe different, the problem isn't always the fault of the child or the parent.

When everyone: parents, teachers, school administrators, and superintendents begin working together to solve the problems is when things will change. With early intervention and support it is absolutely possible to prevent violence. And, if not, society will pay in the long run.

The Advancement Project published a report on May 14, 2003 entitled: DERAILED: The Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track, a first-of-its-kind report that looks at how zero-tolerance policies are derailing students from an academic track in schools to a future in the juvenile justice system. The report can be found at:
http://www.advancementproject.org/

Child Welfare League of America, Washington, DC also published a study that shows children reported abused and neglected are 67 times more likely to be arrested as pre-teens.

And surely, it really doesn't matter where the abuse is occurring - at home or in the schools, as community violence - it all has the same outcome and same effect upon the child and their future.

Educators are not allowed to touch students. This child was clearly out of control (has issues). Somebody must exercise authority in these cases. It's time to take back the classroom and insist parents do their job. Public education should be defined as a priviledge and earned rather than freely given and allowed to be abused. Tuition would be a good start.

Thank you

As a parent of a child who suffered with emotional disabilities -- I never blamed the school for her disabilities or any event that occured due to these problems. I also was not a poor parent or one who did not try everything to help my child. Due to the prompt medical and parental interventions in her life she never brought a school to a halt due to her behaviors. If more parents would accept parenting as a responsibility as well as accept disabilities as that and not a personal attack on them then we could actually make progress in these areas.
As an elementary school principal I have had to seek medical treatment several times for injuries from out of control children. I, as well as our teachers, have been trained in crisis interventions and passive restraint measures. Sometimes these measures work and enable us to calm the child down and sometimes they don't work. In either case it takes personnel often more than hour to work through the crisis situation with the child. My question -- is which children do we want to deprive an hour of education to so their teacher can spend an hour using their TRAINING

As a parent of a child who suffered with emotional disabilities -- I never blamed the school for her disabilities or any event that occured due to these problems. I also was not a poor parent or one who did not try everything to help my child. Due to the prompt medical and parental interventions in her life she never brought a school to a halt due to her behaviors. If more parents would accept parenting as a responsibility as well as accept disabilities as that and not a personal attack on them then we could actually make progress in these areas.
As an elementary school principal I have had to seek medical treatment several times for injuries from out of control children. I, as well as our teachers, have been trained in crisis interventions and passive restraint measures. Sometimes these measures work and enable us to calm the child down and sometimes they don't work. In either case it takes personnel often more than hour to work through the crisis situation with the child. My question -- is which children do we want to deprive an hour of education to so their teacher can spend an hour using their TRAINING

Continued (sorry I accidentally hit the submit button) ---

As I was saying in the previous message -- Which children do we chose to lose their education for an hour or more while staff stop everything and try to calm a child down? Which staff member do we willingly allow to be bitten, kicked, hit, and attacked with flying objects? And do we pay any staff member enough money for taking this type of physical beating and humiliation from a 5 - 12 year old? When is too much too much? How badly bruised and cut does one have to be before they should call the police? As a principal I have never called the police on a child - except to pick up ones with a gun. I have always been able to take the level of physical pain and torture that I must endure to get a child calmed down. However, I am now in my 50's after being a principal for 20 years. The older I get the less strength I have and the less resistent my bones are to breakage, etc. Let me assure the readers that a 10 year old child full of adrenaline has amazing strength and outstanding agility. Is it society's expectation that at 50 years old I am now too old to be a principal since I cannot take the level of physical abuse I once could? Is it now more important to be a physical giant as a principal than to have wisdom, professional knowlege, and compassion for children? Handcuffing children is outrageious; however, sometimes society, lawyers, physical endurance limits, and poor parents force police intervention. I dare say I doubt this will be the last case of its kind until our society wakes up and smells the coffee that responsibility for children begins in the home and is supported by the school and society.

I have taught for over twenty years and been an administrator almost as long. I was principal of a school that housed the district's severely behaviour disordered children--all thirty two of them. I made sure that all the teachers and paraprofessionals in the program had restraint training, and that parents knew the training was for our protection as well as their children's. We let them know we would use this method only when necessary. We also had a padded time out room where students could go on their own or be sent to "cool" down. In addition, we offered parenting classes after school, and believe me, they were well attended. Many middle class parents told me how helpful they found these classes. Yes, we did have problems with "bad behaviour", but the students, even the worst offenders, also responded to a firm but loving approach.
From the video, it was obvious to any experienced educator,that the paraprofessional had little or no training for the job she was expected to perform. This is all too common in our schools these days. Constantly waving her arms in the child's face and cornering her at every move was a way of egging her on rather than stopping the behaviour. I saw a child having a tantrum, but not one so out of control she could not be handled. The adult's actions were pushing the child's buttons and causing her to act out more. When the police arrived, that little girl was sitting quietly. Why on earth they handcuffed her is a mystery to me. Is this what our society is reduced to? Was their goal to teach her a lesson? If the goal was to create a delinquent who sees the police as enemies rather than helpers, they succeeded brilliantly. I wonder if that child would have been treated in such a cavalier way if she were from a white, middle class family--and we have many children with behavior problems from such families as well, believe it or not--I've had them in my school. Somehow, many people have no sympathy, or shall I say empathy, when the culprit is one of color or poor. It is almost as if, we feel they should be grateful for just being allowed to live.
Those of us who have spent most of our lives in schools, see daily the discrepancy in the treatment of students based on their background. We can lie to ourselves and call it "individualizing" as much as we like, but this is a dirty little secret that schools keep out of the public domain. Ou students know it and we know it. Blame the families and their parenting skills as much as you like, but during those hours when these students are in school, they deserve to have "trained" personnel working with them. Helping students learn what the limits are and how to handle themselves is all part of the art of teaching.

I have worked with emotional/behavioral disordered children for many years. Early on in my career there was a sixth grade student who was taken away in cuffs and it traumatized both she and I, and I will never forget the feeling I had as she was put in the squad car. Now that I "get" the whole behavioral thing and realize that a student's behavior isn't out of "naughty-ness" but is a symptom of something else going on or a skill deficit I would be very thorough with determining the function of the behavior before calling the police. We have children coming to us with extremely aggressive behavior patterns we all need to have several options of intervention. Sometimes calling the police is necessary because all other options have been tried. Maybe police intervention is a way to get the child the help he/she needs.

I don't believe that anyone would call the police and have a child cuffed unless, in their eyes, a child was at risk of harming themselves or someone else. If a teacher or administrator deemed it necessary we should support that decision because we weren't there. The media blows things up and sensationalizes everything to get ratings. As school personnel we need to be supportive of decisions each makes... once in a while we may make a mistake but it is better to be safe than sorry. It is better that we call in for support than to make a move in which someone gets hurt. Unless we were there I don't think it's our place to pass judgement on any one else.

I have taught for over twenty years and been an administrator almost as long. I was principal of a school that housed the district's severely behaviour disordered children--all thirty two of them. I made sure that all the teachers and paraprofessionals in the program had restraint training, and that parents knew the training was for our protection as well as their children's. We let them know we would use this method only when necessary. We also had a padded time out room where students could go on their own or be sent to "cool" down. In addition, we offered parenting classes after school, and believe me, they were well attended. Many middle class parents told me how helpful they found these classes. Yes, we did have problems with "bad behaviour", but the students, even the worst offenders, also responded to a firm but loving approach.
From the video, it was obvious to any experienced educator,that the teacher/paraprofessional(not sure what her role was) had little or no training for the job she was expected to perform. This is all too common in our schools these days. Constantly waving her arms in the child's face and cornering her at every move was a way of egging her on rather than stopping the behaviour. I saw a child having a tantrum, but not one so out of control she could not be handled. The adult's actions were pushing the child's buttons and causing her to act out more. When the police arrived, that little girl was sitting quietly. Why on earth they handcuffed her is a mystery to me. Is this what our society is reduced to? Was their goal to teach her a lesson? If the goal was to create a delinquent who sees the police as enemies rather than helpers, they succeeded brilliantly. I wonder if that child would have been treated in such a cavalier way if she were from a white, middle class family--and we have many children with behavior problems from such families as well, believe it or not--I've had them in my school. Somehow, many people have no sympathy, or shall I say empathy, when the culprit is one of color or poor. It is almost as if, we feel they should be grateful for just being allowed to live.
Those of us who have spent most of our lives in schools, see daily the discrepancy in the treatment of students based on their background. We can lie to ourselves and call it "individualizing" as much as we like, but this is a dirty little secret that schools keep out of the public domain. Ou students know it and we know it. Blame the families and their parenting skills as much as you like, but during those hours when these students are in school, they deserve to have "trained" personnel working with them. Helping students learn what the limits are and how to handle themselves is all part of the art of teaching.

If the police were not called in, the school district would have been sued. It is my firm belief that our moral fabric in regards to educating our children about good decisions and the consequences of bad ones is settled too often in court rooms and not at bedtime somewhere between the fairy tale and the good night kiss. Parents are increasingly distrustful of the school system that is increasingly distrustful of them. Let's face it: If teachers or staff had laid one hand on that child, they would all be out of jobs by now. This is absolutely absurd that a child was put in hand cuffs, but tell me, what would YOU, as an educator have done in the same situation??? QUICK...QUICK...THINK...

Seth

Seth:
View the tape. In fact the administrator did "lay hands" on the child to remove her from a table, several times. Also read Ms. Ntifaro's professional opinion. The actions of the adult were not well suited to the situation. If the educators reading can't "QUICK...QUICK...THINK..." of how to respond to a tantrum without the use of handcuffs, perhaps they could invite themselves to observe in the homes of some parents of pre-schoolers. I guarantee that no matter what district or building they teach in there are parents who handle tantrums on a daily basis without either physical abuse or hand-cuffs.

Seth Batiste--Your comment is absolutely correct. People often do not put themselves TRULY IN A TEACHERS SHOES.

Recently I had a similiar violent incident with a five year old in class. While participating in an outside activity the child left his assigned area potentially creating a danger to another student. I gave him a warning for the behavior and when he continued moved him to the side for the remainder of that activity. At the beginning of a new activity I asked him to rejoin us. He chose not to. When the class's teacher came to get them he would not go. The teacher removed the class so that I could deal with the issue. I told the student he could walk with me and rejoin his class or go to out Behavior Management Center (BMC). He refused. I directed him to follow me and he refused calling me "a mean teacher" and telling me "he hated me." Keep in mind I normally have an excellent repoire with this student. I told the student he had five seconds to follow or I would called the Behavior Management Specialist. I offered him my hand, which he took and then leaned back so that if I let go he would have injured himself. When he let go I put both my hands in my pockets. When I attempted to walk to the nearest classroom to call the Specialist, the student attempted to block my path putting himself at risk. He wrapped himself around my legs and tried to drag me down some steps. He then began to push me, hit me, and pulled my shirt down to my knees. Yes, he was five and a very small child, but I happen to be diabetic and suffered very large bruises on my legs as I stood there with my hands in my pockets waiting for assistance. He responded to no verbal cues. The child had to be physically restrained and carried to the BMC.

I had to insist that the child have in school suspension. The Principal is not an advocate of serious consequences for young children. However, all I could think of was what if this child had been a little older or a little larger? I would have been seriously injured. All of my Graduate Work is in classroom management. I followed every technique I know and all of my school guidelines. But the reality is that a student I had an excellent repoire with, BEAT ME over a minor infraction and consequences in class. However, if I had touched the student even to refrain him from hitting me.... I COULD HAVE BEEN SUED, or HAD DISCIPLINARY ACTION TAKEN AGAINST ME. The whole thing was disturbing.

And the parents? Would not discuss his behavior with me at all. Wonder what life is life at home....

I am black. I am the mother of a black male. My son is a college student. I am a teacher.

The child was out of control. I am ashamed of Jesse Jackson coming to the aid of the mother who raised an out of control child.

When he does frivolous things as this, he will be taken less seriously when he stands for something that is really just.

I saw the taped piece and I have the following observations:
1. Color has nothing to do with it, except that if the child was a 5 year old, blond hair, blue eyed white girl, the nation would be outraged.
2. The teacher allowed the behavior to escalate and did nothing because she knew the camera was running. I believe that the camera was set up for the purpose of documenting the child's continuous unruly behavior, not teaching skill assessment.
3. It was clear that the incident was staged because what teacher evacuates an entire class for the behavior of one 5 YEAR OLD. Wouldn't it have made more sense and been less disruptive to remove the young girl IMMEDIATELY!
5. How long does a child have to display disruptive behavior before the child is contained, detained, isolated, or otherwise disciplined? This child was allowed to systematically destroy property for the sole purpose of capturing her behavior on tape. Is she the ONLY child in the school that displays such behavior?
6. The tape should have been showed to her parents first. Her mom was on her way to the school. Then disciplinary action, such as expulsion or suspension, should have been imposed.
7. AND THIS IS THE MOST ABSURD! This is a 5 year old child, yet she was ushered to the principal's office, video running, while other adults stood arourd, talking, and watching her beat up on the asst. principal. You can clear hear them conversing in the background and requesting that someone send for an extra blank videotape. This is both shameful and ridiculous.
8. Is the little girl's behavior excuseable? CERTAINLY NOT!
9. Was the situation handled correctly! CERTAINLY NOT.
10. Should her mother sue the school system? CERTAINLY NOT.
11. This incident is clearly a cry for help from both the offender (5 year old) and the frustrated school system that has to deal with her and other problem children like her daily.
12. If the mother is awarded any money, it should go in a trust fund for the child to be used only in the event and for the purpose of her "higher education". Yes, I mean college. No college, she forfeits her rights to the money. THE MOTHER SHOULD BE AWARDED ZERO DOLLARS. NO AWARD MONEY GIVEN TO THE STUDENT OR THE MONEY SHOULD NOT BE AWARDED [OR USED] FOR PERSONAL GAIN.

13. Also, AND THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO THE FIVE YEAR OLD IN QUESTION!
There is a new generation of children who are victims of one or more of the following situations: drug addicted mothers and/or fathers, absent fathers, overindulgent parents, raised by grandparents or guardians, nutritionally deficient, and/or emotionally dificient.
14. In addition, my heart goes out to all of the teachers and administrators, parents,and all else involved in making disciplinary decisions involving children K-12. It is not easy.
It is my sincere hope that there will be tactics, strategies, and skills for discipline that works.

As a teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disorders, there have been occasions when an elementary child has been handcuffed to prevent the child from injurying him/herself or others. This is a rare occasion, but there are times when it is necessary. Redirection, removing other students from the classroom, placing student in time out to calm down, and physical restraint are all tried first. Whether or not handcuffs were necessary for the five-year-old in Florida, I don't know. But I do know that some students become extremely powerful when they are acting out their emotional or behavioral disorder and it sometimes takes 3-4 adults to safely restrain a 5-6 year old child. Although I do not recommend handcuffing students, it is sometimes necessary.

To Margo/Mom...
Maybe I didn't get your message prorperly, but when you find your son sleeping in someone's office, don't you wonder? My mother even knows, without having the need to know the law, etc. but simply from raising children that they will eventually put themselves to sleep from exhaustion of their temper tantrums. Haven't you ever witnessed this at home with your son?

Until you are in a classroom and see the real dynamics, please don't preach to those who do about what you think they should do. It displays ignorance to the profession.

Yes, my son, and others fall asleep from exhaustion at the end of tantrums or other traumatic events. The point is that I was always being called to come "intervene" in something "dangerous" that was beyond the ability of the staff to handle. Even by dropping everthing immediately, leaving work and rushing to the school I could do nothing more--in terms of intervention--than was accomplished by the simple passage of time. What was accomplished has more to do with power games--making a statement to the parent, building a case to "get him out of the building," etc, and stood in the way of any of the responses that could ultimately lead to solution (and are required by both law and his IEP).

AS a matter of fact, I have been taught, as a substitute in middle school--one of the assignments most likely to present challenging behavior, and in an adult education program, where most of my students were survivors of 8 or 9 years of unsuccessful education. However the largest portion of my career has been in social work, which included 18 years experience with low income youngsters and their families in community/group work settings as well as a residential camping program that worked with "troubled" referrals from Children's Services--including a summer in which we took a population of children directly from a residential out-placement program to summer camp.

I don't usually dwell on my credentials in these conversations because my experience has been that it doesn't matter--anyone who is a parent, especially one who disagrees with a teacher, cannot possible know what they are talking about.

My main concern here is how the situation was handled after the fact. The child was taken on a vacation, interviewed for national TV, and pretty well "rewarded" for her behaviors.

As a parent, this is crazy. This mother cannot control her child, so how does she expect any school to control her child. This little girl is headed for a long, hard road if she continues in public education. Rules must be followed and discipline must be taught. While I do not agree with the way the situation was handled (the child was calm, sitting in an office when they handcuffed her), the mother is the responsible party here. She was called several times and did not respond. Parents CANNOT expect the schools to discipline their children when they do not do this at home. Dealing with special education students with emotional and behavioral disorders, I can tell you they most have no rules or responsibilities in the home. Why do we question their "misbehavior" at school when they have not been taught in the home to have any respect for authority.

If I had been this child's mother, I would have taken steps to make sure she knew that her behavior was completely unacceptable. The mother did the exact opposite and blamed the school, which is typical for many parents. This mother does not have a clue as to how much she is hurting her daughter's future.

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  • Susan/Sp.Ed.Teacher: My main concern here is how the situation was handled read more
  • Margo/Mom: Yes, my son, and others fall asleep from exhaustion at read more
  • jp/spec educator: To Margo/Mom... Maybe I didn't get your message prorperly, but read more
  • Carol Ann Cook/ Intervention Specialist: As a teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disorders, read more
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