What ever happened to a good old-fashioned time out? When a teacher took away a kindergartene’s jelly beans used to count in a math exercise at Fairmount Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg, Florida, the child threw a big tantrum.
The five-year old who is black, threw books, smashed a candy dish, kicked her teacher in the shins, tore down papers from the blackboard, hit her assistant principal in the stomach and tried to draw on the walls.
After her mother was not immediately available to pick her up, the police were called and the 40-pound girl was placed under arrest for battery.
Brian Woodward a charter school tutor in Washington, D.C. said, “I think it must have been really traumatizing for the little girl to be handcuffed and arrested,” he said, I think the school should have waited for her mother and put her in an isolated area.”
This unbelievable scene was caught by surveillance cameras in the classroom and principal’s office. Video shows the child attempting to strike the teacher and the assistant principal while the teacher and principal hover close to her repeating the words, “Not Appropriate.”
Minutes later, three white police officers arrive and upon sight of their uniforms the kindergartener becomes subdued and sits down quietly. In the video you can hear one of the three officers saying, “Do you remember me? I’m the one who told your mom I’d put handcuffs on you?”
The girl appears frightened, but they still bend the little girl over a table and bind her hands with plastic ties. They then shackle her ankles with metal handcuffs. The child is visibly crying and is screaming. The video also shows the girl saying, “I don’t want to go to jail” after the handcuffs are put on her.
The child is taken out and placed in the back of a patrol car, but no charges were filed and she was not taken to jail. The child was later uncuffed and released into her mother’s care. The mother, Inda Atkins said that her child would not be returning to the school, and told the St. Petersburg Times that her lawyer would be getting involved. “They set my baby up,” she said. The child’s mother through her lawyer said she never gave police permission to use metal handcuffs on her kindergartner.
Javon Clark student teaches at a charter school in Washington, D.C. He said, “At my school this would have never happened, the teachers and principals should be able to contain a 5-year old’s tantrum without the police.”
“Handcuff a 5 year-old little girl? I mean, come on,” said John Trevena, the family’s attorney at a press conference. Is there anything more that needs to be said about that?” Trevena also spoke out against the actions of the teacher and assistant principal, who he said could have done more to calm the girl down.
He said, “I’m concerned that the educators shadowed and hovered around the young girl. It certainly gives credence to the argument that they may have been provoking her to act out more. To me, it didn’t look like a de-escalation. It looked like an escalation, an attempt to get her to act out more. I just don’t understand why they didn’t distance themselves back further and allow things to cool off.
A school superintendent in St. Petersburg said campus police should have been called. He said school officials never want to have 5 year-old children arrested. There will be an investigation into the school and whether the police officers responded correctly to the situation.
People seem to disagree about what should have happened in this situation. Some online blogs have the opinion that the little girl deserved to be arrested for hitting the assistant principal and the teacher. One posting said that the incident may scare her out of misbehaving in the future. Others have posted opinions saying that all the girl needed was some TLC, discipline and a good spanking from her mother.