The Kenton County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 1 settled a three-year-old lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, after a school resource officer cuffed two elementary school students at the biceps after being called in to calm them during an emotional outburst.
The students were ages 8 and 9 at the time of the incidents, which took place in 2014. After the incidents drew public attention, Sheriff Charles Korzenborn, who supervised the school resource officer program, said that he “steadfastly” backed the deputy involved in the incidents, Kevin Sumner. In a deposition, Korzenborn said that he never asked Sumner how often he handcuffed other children, that he “was not interested in knowing how often his deputies handcuff school children,” and that cuffing children above the elbow is an acceptable practice.
However, in October 2017, a judge ruled that the cuffing constituted an excessive use of force.
The ACLU released videos of one handcuffing incident, which involved an 8-year-old 3rd grader, identified in the lawsuit as S.R. In the videos, Sumner can be seen standing on S.R.'s right after he places handcuffs on the child’s arms above the elbow. The videos were taken by a school staff member.
As S.R. squirms and cries, Sumner says “I asked you not to kick,” and “Now, you give me the behavior that you know you’re supposed to, or you suffer the consequences. It’s your decision to behave this way.” S.R. does not appear in the videos to attempt to leave his chair. The lawsuit says he was handcuffed for 15 minutes.
S.R. has post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the lawsuit said, but at the time of the incident was not receiving special education services.
L.G., the second child involved in the case, was a 9-year-old 4th grader at the time of the incidents, and also has ADHD. She was receiving accommodations through a 504 plan. According to the lawsuit, Sumner used handcuffs on her twice. After the first incident, he called an ambulance to take her to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
Both children suffered emotionally after the incidents, the ACLU said, and have since left the school district.
This incident is additional evidence of the harm that comes with having law enforcment officers in schools, according to an ACLU statement.
“There is no evidence that putting police officers in schools makes children any safer. What we do know is that 1.7 million children attend public schools that have cops but no counselors,” the statement said. “Three million students attend schools with law enforcement officers, but no nurses. And six million students attend schools with law enforcement officers, but no school psychologists. The brunt of these staffing choices falls most heavily and students with disabilities—especially students of color with disabilities.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.