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Feb. 11 2010 - 7:47 pm | 162 views | 1 recommendation | 4 comments

6-year-old girl cuffed, sent to mental institution

City of Port St.

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Last week, A 6-year-old girl in Port St. Lucie, Florida who was disruptive at school, was handcuffed by a sheriff’s deputy.

The police report said the girl “was crying and saying that the handcuffs hurt.” She had pulled one of her hands partially out of the cuffs, so it was around her thumb and hand, rather than her wrist, “causing discomfort,” the report said.

According to a story in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, the girl was having a “temper tantrum…hitting school officials, screaming and kicking.”

On Tuesday, after the principal, who is pregnant, said the girl had kicked her in the stomach, the deputy took her to “a mental facility.”

First question: Why were the police called in for what seems like a fairly routine school disciplinary problem? What did the school do before calling the police?

Second question: Did the school check with the school psychologist before calling the police?

Third question: Was there any reason to suspect the girl’s tantrums were evidence of mental illness?

“These people are going to the extreme,” the girl’s mother said.

Surely there was a better way to handle the situation than turning the girl over to police and a mental institution. But this kind of incident is not uncommon. Schools, tragically, so not know how to handle disruptive kids, and they’re all too ready to hand the problem off to someone else.

As I noted in my previous post, juvenile detention centers in New York State are criminally unprepared to handle mentally ill detainees. Schools, incidents like this one suggest, are similarly ill equipped  to handle their charges.


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  1. collapse expand

    School is a place of learning. If a child is being disruptive send it back to its parent(s) until it can behave itself. The Majority should not suffer for the one.

  2. collapse expand

    Sadly, this is business as usual in Florida. When a six-year-old was arrested after throwing a tantrum in 2007, the police chief told the Times’ Bob Hebert, “Do you think this is the first six-year-old we’ve arrested?” Makes me weep.

    http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/09/opinion/09herbert.html?_r=1

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    About Me

    Paul Raeburn is a journalist, author and blogger whose stories have appeared recently in The Huffington Post, The New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, and Psychology Today, among others.

    He is the author, most recently, of Acquainted with the Night, a memoir of raising children with depression and bipolar disorder. His next book is Why Fathers Matter, to be published in 2010 by Simon & Schuster. Raeburn is a former science editor at Business Week and The Associated Press.

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