Police Try to Handcuff 8-Year-Old Boy With Behavioral Disabilities at School in Florida

The boy, who has emotional and behavioral disabilities, reportedly punched his teacher in the chest. Instead of handling it themselves, the school called the police.

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Aug. 11 2020, Updated 1:35 p.m. ET

A video of the arrest of an 8-year-old boy at a school in Florida back in 2018 has sparked outrage on Twitter. In the video, the child is approached by several police officers and told to turn around and place his hands behind his back. One officer then attempts to handcuff him but can't because his hands are too small.

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Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the child's family in this case, posted the bodycam footage of one of the police officers on his Twitter account, where it quickly went viral and shocked many people.

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The incident took place at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West, Florida on December 14, 2018, according to The Huffington Post. The arrest report indicates that the boy "punched a teacher in the chest." He, at 8 years old, was arrested for felony battery.

Crump said in a statement that the boy had "an individual education plan in place to assist with a disability." Kids who have learning or behavioral disabilities deserve to be supported and accommodated, not arrested like an adult when things don't go right.

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"Instead of honoring and fulfilling that plan," Crump said, "the school placed him with a substitute teacher who had no awareness or concern about his needs and who escalated the situation by using her hands to forcibly move him. When he acted out, the teacher called the police, who threatened him with jail and trie to put him in handcuffs, which fell off because he was too little."

Children with special needs are way too often abandoned by educators, shoved off on substitute teachers or disciplined heavily, when what they really need is competent teachers trained to educate children with disabilities. So few schools put the necessary resources into helping kids like this little boy, and they end up slipping through the cracks or even pushed into the identity of a "troublemaker" when they could have been successful students with the right help. 

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Many were absolutely appalled that the cops would be called for an incident like this and that the cops responded the way they did. At one point in the video, the man wearing the bodycam says to the boy, "You understand this is very serious, OK? I hate that you put me in this position that I have to do this."

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That language, many pointed out, sounds exactly like the language of an abuser. This poor kid is a victim of an ill-equipped school and inadequate educators, and now, he's being taken away in handcuffs at the age of 8 because of it. 

Crump called the ordeal a "heartbreaking example of how our educational and policing systems train children to be criminals by treating them like criminals." This child now faces felony conviction, and if he is convicted, he will be thrust into the penal system before he's a teenager.

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Crump continued, "This little boy was failed by everyone who played a part in this horrific incident." Crump plans to file a federal lawsuit against the officers, school officials, the city of Key West, and the Monroe County School District.

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In response to the video, the Southern Poverty Law Center tweeted, "Violent interactions like this between children with disabilities and police cause long lasting harm and trauma to kids and their families. Arresting an 8-year-old child and sending him to jail is NEVER acceptable. Police have no place 'disciplining' our kids in schools."

This poor kid was not given the support he needs and deserves, and thus, he was forced to endure what will likely be a lasting, traumatic experience. Kids don't forget scarring experiences like being handcuffed at the age of 8. This decision was counterproductive in every single way.

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