Tantrums: Handcuffing Little Kids – Let’s Hear Some Better Ideas

Posted on April 20, 2012


According to CNN, police responded to a report of an assault at an elementary school in Georgia, and ended up handcuffing and arresting a six-year-old girl.  Whaaat?  A six-year-old?  Couldn’t this have been handled better than that?

Um… maybe not.  The girl threw a tantrum, which sounds pretty routine until you read the details:  throwing furniture, which struck the school principal; jumping up on a paper shredder and trying to break glass objects; biting a doorknob;  and then fighting with the police officer who had first tried to calm her down.  The girl’s family thinks that handcuffing the girl and involving the police was unnecessary, and  wonders  if calling the police is “the first step,” or if there was any other intervention the school might have tried.  The only reason we know anything about this is that the parents also took their case to the press.

I am betting that calling the police was most certainly not the first step, and I am also betting that yes, there were other interventions that the staff had already tried, and had failed to get the child under control.  But, still… what gives?  Seriously, school staff can’t handle a six-year-old?  Why are the police hauling little girls away in handcuffs?

I will hazard a guess:  it seems that teachers these days are scarcely allowed to even touch a child lest they be labeled a pedophile, and they certainly are not allowed to use corporal punishment unless they want lawsuits and jail time.  So even simply restraining the child so she doesn’t hurt herself is pretty risky for a teacher.  I went to an elementary school where the teachers actually smacked the kids with rulers, and the parents were all for it.  It was rare, but effective:  you didn’t see a lot of kiddie meltdowns there.  But for good or ill, those days are long gone.  What keeps kids in line in school these days has a lot more to do with the parents and their involvement, than with the teachers, whose hands are pretty much tied in a case like this one.  So what, exactly, were they supposed to do?

Let’s hear from some parents and teachers out there: how could this have been handled better?  What alternatives did the school have, while the child was in full-tilt aggression mode?

Originally published at The Color of Lila.