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ACLU Lawsuit Alleges Child Shackling

The ACLU and others filed a federal lawsuit against Kenton County (Kentucky) after a deputy sheriff handcuffed two elementary school-aged children who have disabilities. The ACLU also published video footage of an officer forcibly handcuffing a third grade boy to discipline him for an outburst related to his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). (A staff member at the boy’s school filmed the incident.) The aim of the lawsuit is to have the court declare this type of treatment against children unconstitutional and that the officer acted in defiance of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ACLU’s video footage shows an officer identified as Kenton County sheriff’s deputy Kevin Sumner placing handcuffs on an eight-year-old at a school in Covington, Kentucky.  The boy, referred to as S.R., audibly cried out, “ow, that hurts,” as Officer Sumner placed the cuffs around his child’s biceps (presumably because S.R. weighs 52 pounds and his wrists were too small for the adult-size cuffs). S.R. remained restrained for 15 minutes.

Sumner was involved in another handcuffing last fall involving a 9-year-old girl who also has ADHD.  According to U.S. Department of Education, students with disabilities make up 12% of schools’ populations but account for 75% of students subjected to restraints.  The ACLU alleges that this type of treatment serves to traumatize and alienate children with disabilities, rather than effectively integrate them. Furthermore, students with disabilities who are also ethnic minorities may be particularly vulnerable to these disciplinary practices; the students involved in these cases are Latino and African American.

Sumner reported both retraining incidents, which are permitted if the child poses a danger to himself or others. However, the suit names Sumner as well as his supervisor, claiming that Sumner was improperly trained and poorly supervised.  The ACLU believes training should focus on deescalation rather than extreme discipline.

ACLU Lawsuit Against Kenton County Sheriff’s Office