The Pryor Times

April 21, 2012

Police defend handcuffing kindergartner for tantrum


— MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. - Police in this central Georgia community Tuesday defended an officer's decision to handcuff a tantrum-throwing kindergartner to get her under control.

The incident involving the 6-year-old student at the Creekside Elementary School last Friday caused a national media stir and raised questions about police policy on handcuffing children.

Police Chief Dray Swicord said the girl was transported from the school to the police station in handcuffs under standard practice and later released to her aunt.

He said a juvenile complaint was filed against her for simple battery and damage to property, but that the child would not charged because of her age.

"The student was never placed in a holding cell or jail cell and the student's safety was of the utmost importance," said Swicord.

The student's family insisted the city change its police handcuff policy for children, saying the girl was shaken by the experience.

"She said they were really tight," said Candace Ruff, the girl's aunt. "She said they really hurt her wrists. She was so shaken up when we went there to pick her up."

Swicord said police responded to a request for help to control the student after school officials said she pushed two other students and began throwing items off the teacher's desk.

The police report said the student refused to go to the principal's office, running down the hallway screaming and "then began tearing items off the walls and throwing furniture."

The officer who got to the scene first observed the child "biting the door knob of the office and jumping on the paper shredder" and attempting to "break a glass frame above the shredder."

The officer said he tried to calm the student and after several failed attempts to reach her mother, the girl was handcuffed with her arms behind her back and taken to the station.

The girl's mother, Constance Ruff, told WMAZ-TV that her daughter had been suspended for the remainder of the school year by school officials.

Milledgeville Schools Supt. Geneva Braziel would not confirm that report, citing student confidentialy. But she did issue a statement saying that the "student engaged in violent and disruptive behavior that resuled in police involvement."

The superintendent added: "The student's behavior included pushing several other students; running away from the school staff; slamming chairs around the school office; climbing up and knocking over a bookcase; knocking pictures off the wall; scribbling over the walls, and injuring a school employee."

She said the police were called to assist because of safety concerns for the other students.

The aunt told the Associated Press: "We would not like to see this happen to another child because it's horrifying. It's devastating."

It is not uncommon for police to handcuff teenage students accused of wrongdoing in school but incidents of handcuffing an elementary student, especially a kindergartner, are rare.

Milledgeville, a community of 20,000, is known as the antebellum capital of Georgia. It served as the state capital until 1868, when it was moved to Atlanta during the post-Civil War reconstruction era.