US lawsuits filed over handcuffing of disabled children

Officer allegedly used "excessive force" when handcuffing two children for misbehaving in Kentucky school.

    The mothers of two mentally disabled children who were handcuffed for misbehaving in class in the US state of Kentucky have launched lawsuits against a county sheriff, his office, and a school resource officer over the incident.

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also filed a federal suit on Monday over last year's allegedly illegal use of force against the eight-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl, who "posed no threat of physical harm" to anyone at the time, in the northern city of Covington.

    The mothers and their children have chosen to omit their names in their lawsuit and have instead been identified with their initials.

    The lawsuit says officer Kevin Sumner "unlawfully restrained and handcuffed the children at school with excessive force and without necessity" in the county of Kenton.

    The officer also shackled their biceps behind their backs because their wrists were too small for the handcuffs, causing "pain, fear and emotional trauma," the lawsuit says.

    Video showing one of the children crying in pain while shackled by the officer is being used in the lawsuit as evidence.

    The Kenton County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Charles Korzenborn have also been named in the lawsuit for their role in implementing policies.

    Nationwide problem

    The lawsuit cites a government report that documented hundreds of alleged incidents of police restraining children in schools across the country from 1990 to 2009, including 20 incidents causing death.

    "Virtually all of the incidents involved children with disability," it said.

    The Government Accountability Office report explained that even if no physical injury is sustained by the children, individuals can be severely traumatised by the restraint.

    The ACLU's lawsuit against the county's sheriff office notes that the boy who was handcuffed already had "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] and a history of trauma", while the girl also had ADHD, as well as other special needs.

    "Nationally, students with disabilities make up 12 percent of students in public schools, but are 75 percent of the students who are physically restrained by adults in their schools, according to the US Department of Education," the ACLU said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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