Federal Judge Rules Handcuffing Children Above Elbows is Unconstitutional
A federal judge in Kentucky ruled on Wednesday that it was unconstitutional when a deputy handcuffed an 8-year-old boy for misbehaving in 2014.
Kenton County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner told the boy to comply with his demands or “suffer the consequences.”
“Oh, God! Ow, that hurts!” the boy screamed out in pain.
“Sit back down . . . Ask nicely . . . Look at me . . . “It’s up to you if you want them off or not,” Sumner can be heard taunting the 3’5” boy who weighs 53 pounds.
The boy, who isn’t being identified because he’s a minor, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and was in special needs classes along with a 9-year-old girl, who was also handcuffed around her biceps so she wouldn’t slip out of the handcuffs, which might have made deputy Sumner fear for his life.
The ACLU and the Children’s Law Center filed the lawsuit in 2015 and posted videos of the incident, saying it was a classic example of the school-to-prison pipeline, which is one of the driving forces in the U.S. economy, which has the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world.
On Wednesday, Judge William O. Bertelsman issued an opinion and filed an order finding that handcuffing children violated their Fourth Amendment rights due to their young age, small stature and “their conduct does not call to mind the type of ‘assault’ which would warrant criminal prosecution,” according to WCPO.
In addition, Bartelsman found Kenton County liable for unlawful seizure and excessive force during the incident.
“Even as young children, both were certain that what the deputy did to them was wrong,” the childrens’ lawyer, Rickell Howard Smith, said in a written statement.
“I am glad to be able to tell them that the federal judge agrees with them.”
After the lawsuit was filed, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated Covington Independant Public School district’s disciplinary practices.
Earlier this year, the district agreed to a settlement with the DOJ and established a new set of guidelines for disciplining children with disabilities.
Under the guidelines, law enforcement and school resource officers can only intervene if the child has committed a crime or poses a direct threat to the physical safety of other children.
Additionally, the school district issued a news release saying it will discontinue the use of “calm rooms” to isolate and seclude students who misbehave.
Covington Independent Superintendent Alvin Garrison declined to comment on the lawsuit, but issued a written statement saying the “district continues to diligently work to provide a safe learning environment for students.”
Footage of the incident, along with the judges opinion, can be viewed below.