Could Your Six Year Old Be Arrested, Handcuffed and Shackled in School?

According to a class action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) , a six year old boy was arrested and chained because he did not move when his teacher told him to move . No one was being hurt, no one was in danger, no crime was being committed. Little J.W. simply didn’t do as he was told. He didn’t follow directions.

While this same behavior happens every day in elementary schools across the country, J.W. attends an elementary school in the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD). Created to accommodate the children whose families returned to post-Katrina New Orleans, unlike most elementary schools those in RSD have armed police officers on-site who follow the direction of school principals. In J.W.’s case, according to the SPLC Complaint:

On May 4, 2010, J.W. allegedly failed to follow his teacher’s directions. As a consequence for this minor misbehavior, Defendant Doe [a police officer in the school] arrested J.W. and transported him to an in-school suspension room where he was isolated from his peers and confined with much older students who taunted and teased him. Inside the in-school suspension room, Defendant Doe forcibly seized J.W. by chaining his ankle to a chair.

A few days later, J.W. got into an argument with another student about a seat in the cafeteria. This time a school police officer:

forcibly arrested and seized J.W. and dragged him through the halls to Defendant Principal Burnett’s [the elementary school principal] office. … Defendant Burnett ordered [the officer] to handcuff and shackle J.W. to a chair.

The lawsuit seeks relief for J.W. and all the students of RSD under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. constitution for unreasonable search and seizure. As well J.W. asserts state tort claims for the physical and emotional injuries suffered as a result of this brutal policy and practice.

However, Louisiana is not the only state that allows corporal punishment in public schools. Do you know if the school your child attends allows school staff to physically restrain students and, if so, under what circumstances and with which methods? Can your child be held back from striking another person or can your child be chained to a chair and left unattended? Should a six year old ever be shackled?


  • Lisa RM July 20, 2010 Whoa. I can understand maybe restraining kids in the middle of a fight (like holding onto the child’s waist or arms to stop the altercation) but SHACKLING?! A six year old?! Is this the US or Iran? I’m actually kind of scared now for when my son goes to school. reply
    • Jake
      Twitter: Jakearyehmarcus
      replied: July 20, 2010 On this point, there may not be much difference between the U.S. and Iran and many parents don’t know it. While I homeschool my sons now, two of my boys went to school while corporal punishment was still legal in schools in my state. I had no idea.reply
  • Judy@MommyNewsBlog
    Twitter: MommyNews
    July 20, 2010 I have never heard of anything so absurd! Are we barbarians? This is crazy for any child to be treated this way – let alone a 6 year old!
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  • Alix July 20, 2010 When I was in second grade (many, many years ago), my teacher tied a classmate to her chair with a jump rope. I really thought things would be better by now, but it seems that they are worse. reply
  • Tweets that mention Could Your Six Year Old Be Arrested, Handcuffed and Shackled in School? | Sustainable Mothering — July 20, 2010[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by phdinparenting, Judy Masucci and Jake Aryeh Marcus, Kimber Williams. Kimber Williams said: RT @MommyNews: RT @JakeAryehMarcus Could Your Six Year Old Be Arrested, Handcuffed and Shackled in School? […] reply
  • lumina January 31, 2011 Oh, does this bring up memories!My son has Asperger’s Syndrome. When we moved to South Carolina he attended school in one district for the first two years. We had a psychological assessment from the school district’s psychologist as well as a report from a psychologist we hired privately. Entering my children into public school in this state was the first time I was confronted with corporal punishment as a still-common practice in public schools. The school sent a permission slip home with my boys, requiring my signature to allow them to administer corporal punishment if and when the school administration felt it necessary. I didn’t sign the slip, but I did send it back (in a sealed envelope) to school with my boys. On each slip, in big red letters, I wrote, “HELL NO!”(By the way, ALL the schools here employ armed police officers.)Two years later we bought a house in the neighboring school district. Once again I sent the permission slip back with the big red “HELL NO!”. I told the school of my son’s disability and even offered the reports from both the other district psychologist and the psychologist we had hired. I was told that my son would receive no special needs assistance until THEIR district’s school psychologist had assessed him. The waiting period for that assessment: 6 months.So for 6 months my poor boy struggled to keep up with regular students in a class for which he was ill equipped to handle, for which his teacher was ill-educated to assist him, and for which his needs were not being met.One day, while at a grocery store, I received a call from the school from the principal, “Your son refused to exit the classroom during a fire drill. He is sitting in his desk and refuses to move. The teacher feels this is disruptive and upsetting to the other students. If you are not here in five minutes I will be forced to have the school police officer arrest him.” My boy was eight years old.In a blind rage I drove like a bat out of hell to the school. I stormed past the receptionist’s desk and straight into the principal’s office and demanded she turn my son over to me immediately. She said he’d been removed to a private detention room and would have to be brought to her office. She thanked me for coming so expediently and extended her hand to shake mine. I left her hand hanging while I verbally blasted her.Asperger’s children do not understand sudden change. They are alarmed by sudden loud noises. They tend to “shut down” or “lock up” in moments of crisis. Of COURSE he froze in his chair!After I got done screaming at that nitwit of a principal for the district’s molasses slow red-tape bureaucracy, her ignorance and inattention to the immediate needs of special-needs children, her goon squad cop, for the incompetency of her teachers, I had my child formally discharged from the school.I home-schooled a child whom Autism experts suggest require the best therapy through socialization.This was a wake-up call to me. I have since, as a responsible parent, spent a lot of time learning my rights and my children’s rights and I have used those same rights as a cudgel to get what was needed from a state that won’t do crap for your kids unless you demand it first.
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    • Jake
      Twitter: Jakearyehmarcus
      replied:January 31, 2011 Oh, Lumina, how horrible for your son and for you! Just no words. :(