Could Your Six Year Old Be Arrested, Handcuffed and Shackled in School?

by Jake Aryeh Marcus Find Sustainable Mothering on Facebook and Jake on Twitter.

According to a class action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) , a six year old boy was arrested and chained because he did not move when his teacher told him to move . No one was being hurt, no one was in danger, no crime was being committed. Little J.W. simply didn’t do as he was told. He didn’t follow directions.

While this same behavior happens every day in elementary schools across the country, J.W. attends an elementary school in the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD). Created to accommodate the children whose families returned to post-Katrina New Orleans, unlike most elementary schools those in RSD have armed police officers on-site who follow the direction of school principals. In J.W.’s case, according to the SPLC Complaint:

On May 4, 2010, J.W. allegedly failed to follow his teacher’s directions. As a consequence for this minor misbehavior, Defendant Doe [a police officer in the school] arrested J.W. and transported him to an in-school suspension room where he was isolated from his peers and confined with much older students who taunted and teased him. Inside the in-school suspension room, Defendant Doe forcibly seized J.W. by chaining his ankle to a chair.

A few days later, J.W. got into an argument with another student about a seat in the cafeteria. This time a school police officer:

forcibly arrested and seized J.W. and dragged him through the halls to Defendant Principal Burnett’s [the elementary school principal] office. … Defendant Burnett ordered [the officer] to handcuff and shackle J.W. to a chair.

The lawsuit seeks relief for J.W. and all the students of RSD under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. constitution for unreasonable search and seizure. As well J.W. asserts state tort claims for the physical and emotional injuries suffered as a result of this brutal policy and practice.

However, Louisiana is not the only state that allows corporal punishment in public schools. Do you know if the school your child attends allows school staff to physically restrain students and, if so, under what circumstances and with which methods? Can your child be held back from striking another person or can your child be chained to a chair and left unattended? Should a six year old ever be shackled?

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