A school resource officer who detained and handcuffed a 9-year-old student during physical education class is not protected from allegations that he violated the girl’s constitutional rights, a federal appeals court has ruled.
Antonio Bostic, a deputy sheriff who worked at the 415-student Holt Elementary School in Holt, Ala., was sued by Laquarius Gray, a student, and her mother, after the encounter, which happened after Laquarius made a threatening comment to a teacher, according to court papers.
Brushing aside another teacher’s declaration that she would handle the matter, Mr. Bostic had intervened and placed handcuffs on the student’s wrists for “not less than five minutes,” according to court papers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, on Aug. 7 upheld a federal district court’s dismissal of Mr. Bostic’s claim of qualified immunity.
U.S. Circuit Judge Frank M. Hull wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that the officer had not handcuffed the girl to pursue an investigation but to teach her a lesson.
“We likewise conclude that Deputy Bostic’s conduct in handcuffing Gray, a compliant, 9-year-old girl, for the sole purpose of punishing her was an obvious violation of Gray’s Fourth Amendment rights,” the judge wrote. “Every reasonable officer would have known that handcuffing a complaint 9-year-old child for purely punitive purposes is unreasonable.”
The judge emphasized, however, that the use of handcuffs during “an investigatory stop” of a 9-year-old might be justified in different circumstances.
The case will return to the district court for further proceedings.
A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2006 edition of Education Week