This article was originally published by Matt Agorist at The Free Thought Project.
Remember, this is a 9-year-old boy in school… not a hardened armed criminal on the run.
The Walpole Public School System and the Walpole Police Department in Massachusetts are facing public outrage after handcuffing a 9-year-old student to a pole during a mental health crisis, further exemplifying the systemic issues in our schools and the increasing tendency to rely on the American police state. Lawyers for Civil Rights and Anderson Krieger LLC law firm have written a letter to the involved parties demanding wide-ranging reform in response to this disturbing incident.
On January 12, the third-grade student, diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and delayed intelligence, faced a dysregulated episode in class. The student’s individualized education plan contained specific procedures for positive reinforcement to regulate his behavior. Instead of following those guidelines, school staff called the school resource officer, who then summoned officers from the Walpole Police Department.
Remember, this is a 9-year-old boy… not a hardened armed criminal on the run.
Nevertheless, two officers arrived and forcibly handcuffed the child to a pole, restraining his arms and legs before taking him to a local hospital. He was held in adult custody, unable to reach his mother until his discharge. Erika Richmond, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights, stated, “The actions taken by Walpole Public Schools and the Walpole Police Department against this 9-year-old boy were egregious, age-inappropriate, and directly contradicted the school’s own guidance for regulating his behavior.”According to WBUR, Matthew Bowser, an associate attorney with Anderson Kreiger LLP, added, “It was an egregious departure from procedure and basic decency, evidencing either a complete lack of training for this scenario or worse, willful neglect. It cannot happen again.”
Walpole Public Schools superintendent Bridget Gough released a statement, which in part said: “Walpole schools are committed to the safety and education of all of our students, regardless of race or other protected characteristics.” Gough stated she could not comment further on the incident without parental permission. The family chose not to speak publicly to protect their son’s privacy.
Walpole police chief Richard M. Kelleher confirmed in an emailed letter that his department responded to an elementary school in January “to assist staff with a student.” He declined to comment further on the incident or on the actions of the officers who responded.
Both groups demanded that the school district and police department apologize to the family. The boy’s family is currently exploring all legal options to hold Walpole Public Schools and the town’s police department accountable.
A legal memorandum of understanding for Massachusetts schools addresses the powers of school resource officers. It states, “School staff shall not ask an SRO to serve as a school disciplinarian or enforcer of school regulations.” Furthermore, the document states that school resource officers should not “use police powers to address traditional school discipline issues, including non-violent disruptive behavior.” However, for issues of safety, the school can request an SRO who “may act to de-escalate the immediate situation (where feasible) and to protect the physical safety of members of the school community.”