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Lawsuit: Officer handcuffed elementary school students with ADHD

By Amy R. Connolly
Lawsuit: Officer handcuffed elementary school students with ADHD
A Kentucky school district and school resource officer were sued after a disabled elementary school boy was handcuffed for acting out at school. Screenshot from ACLU

FRANKFORT, Ky., Aug. 4 (UPI) -- A Kentucky school resource officer is facing a federal lawsuit after handcuffing two emotionally disabled elementary school children who were acting out in school.

The American Civil Liberties Union said restraining the children, a boy and a girl, caused them "pain, fear and emotional trauma." The group released a video showing a boy crying as the officer handcuffed his biceps behind his back. The officer is heard telling the boy, "You don't get to swing at me like that."

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Both children have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is marked by emotional outbursts, disruptive behavior and the inability to concentrate. The disorder is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit claims the officer, who allegedly used shackles on the boy once and the girl twice in 2014, violated the disabilities act and the their constitutional protections.

The suit, which names the Kenton County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Charles L. Korzenborn and Kevin Sumner, the school resource officer, says neither child ever posed an imminent danger or physical harm to themselves or others to justify the use of handcuffs.

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The ACLU wants law enforcement to undergo proper training to work with disabled children.

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"Shackling children is not okay. It is traumatizing, and in this case it is also illegal," said Susan Mizner, disability counsel for the ACLU. "Using law enforcement to discipline students with disabilities only serves to traumatize children. It makes behavioral issues worse and interferes with the school's role in developing appropriate educational and behavioral plans for them."

The video released by the ACLU, shot by a school administrator, shows the boy, who it says weighs 52 pounds, with his back to the camera and his arms shackled behind him. The officer is heard telling the boy, "You can do what we've asked you to do or you can suffer the consequences." The boy cries out, "Ow, that hurts."

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The ACLU said in another incident Sumner handcuffed the girl's biceps behind her back and held her hands over her head in a "shoulder-hyperextension position."

"This position is a pain compliance technique that is dangerous for children and is contrary to the guidance on the safe restraint of children," the lawsuit said.

The school district would not comment on the specifics of the case, citing privacy rules, but said it has "fully cooperated with the children's legal counsel, as well as the Sheriff's Office in looking into the complaints."

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"SROs are law enforcement officers who are assigned in the schools to maintain the safety of students and staff and they act in accordance with their training as professional law enforcement officers," Covington Superintendent Alvin L. Garrison said. "They are not called upon by school district staff to punish or discipline a student who engages in a school related offense."

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