Previously published in Examiner on Mar 8, 2013
Was the police using excessive force when handling an 8-year-old who was having a temper tantrum? According to The Christian Science Monitor published yesterday, “On Tuesday, Alton, Ill., police placed an 8-year-old girl in handcuffs … in a juvenile detention room to wait for her guardian to pick her up.”
It seems rather odd to me that the child was not detained at school. Perhaps she could have been put in a special room waiting for her guardian to come and pick her up. I can’t imagine the police would ever think of handcuffing a child. She is not a criminal. She would not have been able to get away from them. Surely the police are trained better than that. They should know how to handle a child resisting arrest.
The Christian Science Monitor asked the question, “When you are a teacher or principal and you have an unruly child when is it time to call in the police? LoveJoy Elementary School in Alton had to deal with this situation when eight-year-old Jmyha Rickman, who is in a special behavior disorder class, threw a tantrum. Reports say the girl was “out of control” and tearing up two classrooms.”
If this school caters to mentally challenged children they should be equipped with ways to calm the child down before calling in the police. As I said earlier escorting her to another room where she can sit in silence while she calms down might have been a better solution. Unfortunately given the cases of sexual abuse, many professionals are afraid to touch a child even when it is really necessary.
When the school could not control the situation they called the police who put the child in handcuffs and send her to a detention center where she waited for her guardian to pick her up. The Christian Science Monitor goes on to say, “The girl’s uncle and guardian Nehemiah Keeton, who has cared for her since she was less than two-weeks-old …, arrived to pick up his niece two hours after being called. Keeton said, according to The Telegraph in Alton, Ill., that he had to leave his janitorial job in St. Louis – about 23 miles away – to pick her up.”
The guardian worked far away; knowing that why didn’t the school wait for him to come? It seems to me that the school was just interested in getting rid of the problem rather than dealing with it. No person who is called in to pick up their child at school should have to go down to the police station to get the child.
Mr. Keeton reported that his niece asked to use the washroom several times while in detention and was denied. The police threatened not to call Mr. Keeton if the little girl did not stop kicking the chair. The child was not only handcuffed by the wrists but by the ankles as well. Mr. Keaton has decided not to send the child back to school for her own safety. He said she has been having nightmares over the treatment she received. Furthermore, he says he will press charges. Given that the child is a special needs child the procedure explained by the school is to call the parent or guardian first to pick up the child. Mr. Keeton informed them he was on his way. Yet they called the police and sent her away before Mr. Keeton had a chance to get to the school.
This is totally unacceptable; the child was handcuffed, cuffed at the ankles, and not allowed to use the washroom. The police were way out of line. This was inhumane treatment; something you might expect in another country but not in America.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke report that, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form of ASD, while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group. Experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children age 8 will have an ASD (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 30, 2012). Males are four times more likely to have an ASD than females.”
Keeton says, “I feel like if you can’t handle an 8-year-old without calling the police…to put fear in them like my child, you don’t need to work with kids.”
I can’t say that I blame him for feeling that way, I would too if it were my child. As a former counselor I can tell you there are ways to calm a child down such as talking calmly. Threatening a child often leaves them with a feeling of panic and fear and they act out even more. Distracting younger children with something they like to take their mind of the tantrum often works. Remaining calm will help the child to gain some more control as he or she may mirror your behavior.
According to UPI.com, “Officers in the Alton, Illinois Police Department are defending their decision to restrain Jmiyha Rickman, who is autistic, after she tried to hit a school resource officer and tore up two classrooms. According to Mr. Keeton the little girl also suffers from depression and anxiety.
It doesn’t surprise me that the little girl is having nightmares compounded by the fact that she also suffers from depression and anxiety. Being arrested is scary for many adults; imagine what it does to a child.