Sunday, January 27, 2008

Children handcuffed in school; what is going on?

Two recent incidents provide yet more evidence that the situation with cops in the schools has gotten completely out of control.

Twelve days ago a ten year old girl was handcuffed on a school bus, and on Friday, a five year old boy was handcuffed at his elementary school and taken to a psychiatric hospital -- even after his babysitter came to pick him up. Both these children had serious disabilities which required more sensitive interventions.

According to the Daily News, the Kindergarten student, who suffers from attention deficit disorder, speech problems and asthma, has had nightmares ever since and will start seeing a psychologist soon.

The NYCLU and other advocacy groups have documented in detail repeated abuses of the police and safety agents in our schools-- whose number has grown until they now constitute the tenth largest police force in the country. Several times, even principals have been arrested for coming to the aid of students after they had been manhandled by safety agents.

In 2005, the DOE suspended more students than the entire student population of New Haven.

New legislation has been proposed, called the Student Safety Act, which would provide more transparency and oversight as regards disciplinary and security policies in our public schools. For more on this important issue, see the NYCLU website here.


Maegan la Mala said...

Why is no one noticing/acknowledging that it is primarily children of color who are being criminalized in this way?

Anonymous said...

New York City public school aren't punished enough. There are very few realistic consequences for their horrific actions.

It's as simple as this: if a child doesn't know how to behave in school, poses a physical threat to his teachers or fellow students, regardless of whatever he has been diagnosed with, there are other educational setting for that child where they can be successful.

B.J. Piel said...

Maegan, maybe it is because it is primarily children of color who are the majority population in the NYC public schools. Not to say your point is irrelevant, but that there is a reason why one may raise that point.
Perhaps another question that should be asked is this: when a parent decides to bring actions within a school into a legal setting and "the open arena", should the DOE allow the media to see the narrative behind the incident, the charge that is being brought up in this case, and other points of interest that are discussed in what is known as an incident report?
As of now, that info is sealed as we're dealing with minors in an educational setting.
I'm not condoning the actions of the school, but I'm also noting that we have kids who are going far beyond everyday tantrums or 'acting like kids'. Some of those actions are clearly a threat to themselves or others and need to be restrained. However we may feel about it, I am willing to support the idea that those restraints were used with the intent to protect the student or others around that student. I also post this from 2 years experience as a Dean in a high school, and eight years' experience as a teacher. I almost expect that we're going to disagree on this point, but que sera sera.

Anonymous said...

I can remember that when I lived in NYC the LAST place you wanted to live near was a public school. Being on the sidewalks anywhere around the school was an open invitation to assault. God help you if you got on the wrong subway car after two p.m. It wasn't just the high and junior high schools either. I recall one particularly nasty event involving a fourth or fifth grader who was urinating in front of somebodys house and was told to stop that behavior. An empty bottle was hurled at the senior who made the mistake of "disrespecting" the child. Handcuffs you say?

Patrick Sullivan said...


Times have changed. NYC is growing rapidly because so many people want to be here - families, immigrants, retirees, everyone. Our primary problem is overcrowding. We simply don't have the schools we need to cope with the growth and Mike Bloomberg refuses to be held accountable for the problem. NYC is an extraordinary place. Maybe it's just not right for you to live but come back and visit some time.


Anonymous said...

It boogles the mind that if you do a statistical analysis of the ethnicity of Public School Children being forced into Special Ed Classes is overwhelmingly minorities. Anyone that is not a tombstone in the class room is immediately on the School Administrations radar as potential fodder for Special Ed programs, for which they receive financial incentives. I don't care what they say but this is institutional racism and needs to be addressed.

Anonymous said...


Times have not changed in NYC or the surounding areas. Just the past year, while attending school there, my daughter was assulted, physically and verbally; repeatedly. I attend school trips with the class, and watched children behave horribly. Physically attacking eachother, with not only their hands but with objects(like shoes and lunchboxes) while the teachers did nothing. I listened to verbal attacks and threats that most people would be appauld to hear from adults. My daughter was only 5, as were many of her classmates, in kindergarten. During the time I was there, I watched children board the subway trains and assult and attack adults and other children daily.

There is a reason those children were handcuffed, and frankly, I think more of them should be...and the DOE should take better care to asses the problems of NY schools.

Anonymous said...

Hancuffing children? How sad it is when adults think handcuffing is an appropriate way to handle children. I read several articles where some states think tazering children is also ok. At what point will it stop. I thought police presence on campusus was to protect our children. It appears that at some point our schools have transitioned from institutions of learning to prisions. Police who work with young students should be made to take specialized courses and be certified in how to properly difuse situations between kids. Again, this are kids (13-5) not young adults. There frontal lobes havent completely developed which will often lead to them making unwise decisions. It's possible treat them with respect and dignity and still hold them responsible for thier actions without the handcuffs and tazer guns. What is going to take "a child getting shot" to drive home a point. Just a few things to think about.

Anonymous said...

As a NYC public school teacher of 15 yrs I can only say that discipline is severly lacking in our schools and teachers spend most of their day disciplining the 2 or 3 students that are sitting in your childrens' classes, that keep your children from learning. Punishments are practically non existent as the DOE does everything possible not to suspend kids that need a different setting, because its just too much work for the suits sitting in the big offices.

Anonymous said..on Jan 28...It's as simple as this: if a child doesn't know how to behave in school, poses a physical threat to his teachers or fellow students, regardless of whatever he has been diagnosed with, there are other educational setting for that child where they can be successful.

It's not as simple as this. The DOE is so backlogged with refferrals for special education that I now have 3 6th graders sitting in classrooms waiting for placement to hospital programs. The space is unavailable so as they wait placements they curse at teachers, sexually assault furniture, make innapropriate sexual comments to their classmates, all excusable beacuse of their dissabilities ; therefore unpunishable, and simply seen as vulgarity..not a punishable offense by the DOE past removal from the classroom for a period. (If there is room in the time out room which is probably packed to capacity with every other discipline issue...fight, vulgarity, disabordination, bullying, defacing school property, sexual harrassment)

I am not condoning handcuffing of children...but I have personally been a witness to a few cases where the only way to protect both the child and the rest of the student body was to handcuff the child.

So before we all get on the bandwagon lets take a moment to actually walk into a classroom, maybe teach a day or two and then talk about how to discipline kids properly.