A video released by the American Civil Liberties Union shows a school resource officer putting an 8-year-old boy in handcuffs; but that isn’t the only incident alleged against the officer.
Two moms from northern Kentucky are suing School Resource Officer Kevin Sumner and the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office over at least three documented incidents where their children, both disabled, were put in handcuffs. The lawsuit was filed in federal court because it claims the disciplinary measures violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Both children, the boy in the video and a 9-year-old girl, have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The lawsuit seeks a ban on handcuffing students at local schools and money for the children’s pain, emotional trauma and attorney’s fees.
The incident involving the boy, a student at Latonia Elementary School in the Covington Independent Public School District, began as the school year started in August 2014. A teacher removed the student from class because he didn’t follow instructions. He was restrained by school administrators when he tried to leave the principal’s office. Sumner escorted the boy to the bathroom.
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The boy tried to hit him on the way back from the bathroom, according to Sumner’s account in a Kenton County Sheriff’s Office report. Sumner then put the boy in handcuffs, placing the handcuffs on the child’s biceps because they were too big for the 3-foot-6-inch tall boy’s wrists. The video shows the child crying, handcuffed, while sitting in a chair.
The incident involving the girl also happened as the 2014 school year was beginning at John G. Carlisle Elementary School, according to the lawsuit. In that incident, the girl was put in an isolation room after being disruptive in class. Sumner was called after the child had to be restrained by the principal and vice principal when she attempted to leave the room. Sumner stated in his report the child was “attempting to injure school staff” and had to be restrained with handcuffs. As in the other case, the handcuffs were placed on her biceps.
Sumner called for a county medical crisis team because the girl was having “a severe mental health crisis.” She was transported by ambulance to a hospital for a psychiatric assessment and treatment. Yet, Sumner put her in handcuffs again three weeks later. The lawsuit states she ran away from him when he ordered her to go to the cafeteria. Sumner stated she attempted to assault him. The girl’s mother found her daughter with her handcuffed hands restrained above her head.
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Kentucky’s law regarding restraining public school students prohibits school officials from the practice, but offers exceptions. Students can be restrained if they post an imminent danger of physical harm to themselves or others. Trained school personnel can use “a device” to restrain children, but the law does not define the device. Law bans any physical restraint on children when school officials are aware of their disabilities. In these cases, the mothers’ state school officials were aware of their children’s disabilities.
Sumner, a teacher who left education for law enforcement, has been a good school resource officer, according to his attorney Robert Sanders.
“Kevin Sumner is one of the best and most highly trained school resource officers in Kentucky. He’s totally devoted to kids and schools and education. I predict after a whole lot of of hoopla, this will go away and vindicate officer Sumner,” Sanders said.
The Kenton County Sheriff’s Office has not issued a comment because the office has not been notified of the lawsuit.
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