Students With Disabilities Allegedly Handcuffed As Punishment
A sheriff’s deputy is facing a federal lawsuit after allegedly shackling two children with disabilities for misbehaving at school.
The litigation filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky accuses Kenton County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner of handcuffing an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl while working as a school resource officer in Covington, Ky.
In each case, the lawsuit alleges that the restraint was used as punishment for behavior related to the children’s disabilities. Neither child was arrested or charged with a crime.
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A video of an incident involving the boy known in court papers as S.R. shows handcuffs around the child’s biceps as he cries out in pain.
“Shackling children is not okay. It is traumatizing, and in this case it is also illegal,” said Susan Mizner, disability counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which acted on behalf of the two children and their parents. “Using law enforcement to discipline students with disabilities only serves to traumatize children.”
Under Kentucky school regulations, physical restraint is limited to situations where a “student’s behavior poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others.” Mechanical restraints, like handcuffs, are not allowed, the children’s attorneys said.
The lawsuit argues that Sumner’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and seeks policy changes in the local sheriff’s office and additional training for school resource officers on how to deal with children with disabilities as well as unspecified monetary damages.
In addition to Sumner, the suit also accuses Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn of failing to provide appropriate training and alleges that the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office violated the ADA based on the children’s treatment.
In a statement, Korzenborn defended Sumner’s actions.
“Covington schools’ personnel requested assistance from the police during school hours after school administrators’ efforts to de-escalate and defuse a threat to others had proven unsuccessful. Deputy Sumner responded to the call and did what he is sworn to do and in conformity with all constitutional and law enforcement standards,” Korzenborn said.
(Updated: August 4, 2015 at 4:36 PM CT)