Precinct 333

Friday, March 18, 2005

Police Arrest 5-Year-Old For School Tantrum

This is just outrageous. There need to be multiple firings -- both at the school and the police department -- over this brainless absurdity.

A 5-year-old girl was arrested, cuffed and put in back of a police cruiser after an outburst at school where she threw books and boxes, kicked a teacher in the shins, smashed a candy dish, hit an assistant principal in the stomach and drew on the walls.

The students were counting jelly beans as part of a math exercise at Fairmount Park Elementary School when the little girl began acting silly. That's when her teacher took away her jelly beans, outraging the child.

Imagine that -- a 5-year-old acting silly. I'd love to know what the silliness consisted of, that it would result in the child being denied participation in the academic work of the class. That is not ordinarily appropriate punishment at any age.

Minutes later, the 40-pound girl was in the back of a police cruiser, under arrest for battery. Her hands were bound with plastic ties, her ankles in handcuffs.

"I don't want to go to jail," she said moments after her arrest Monday.

Now, it seems to me that two things are true here. First, the child has an anger management problem and threw a whale of a tantrum. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. It is not, however, grounds for restraining a child in such a manner or for placing her under arrest. Was there no one in the building equipped to deal with a child having a tantrum? Were there no trained professionals employed in this building? Whoever called the police was just plain wrong -- even the district agrees.

While police say their actions were proper, school officials were not pleased with the outcome.

"We never want to have 5-year-old children arrested," said Michael Bessette, the district's Area III superintendent.

The district's campus police should have been called to help and not local police, he said.

Bessette said campus police routinely deal with children and are trained to calm them in such situations.

So who screwed up here? Find out and fire them. Period. They clearly failed to follow proper procedures laid out by the district. Rather than call in trained professionals to deal with the situation (though one would have thought that the teacher and the AP were trained professionals with a knowledge of how to deal with a 5-year-old having a tantrum), their choice was to have the child arrested, bound hand and foot, and hauled off in a squad car. That doesn't happen often with the 15-year-olds at my school of 2200!

And then there is the cop. Plastic ties on the hands and handcuffs around the ankles? For a forty-pound 5-year-old? Didn't that seem excessive to you as you were putting them on? Couldn't you have handled the situation with less drastic measures rather than how you would have dealt with, for example, a serial rapist or a cop killer?

And as for the district spokesman, I think this may be the most absurd thing he could have said.

Under the district's code of student conduct, students are to be suspended for 10 days and recommended for expulsion for unprovoked attacks, even if they don't result in serious injury. But district spokesman Ron Stone said that rule wouldn't apply to kindergartners.

"She's been appropriately disciplined under the circumstances," he said.

Really? You think that ANY of this was appropriate? You must have been smoking crack before you talked to the reporters about this, because there is nothing I would call appropriate about the discipline administered here.

Mama says that the little girl won't be going back to that school, and that she plans on talking to a lawyer. Good for her. No 5-year-old should be treated this way over a temper tantrum.


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