A 7-year-old student in a special-education class in New York City was handcuffed by police after he became upset while decorating an Easter egg. Teachers at the Queens school say that first-grader Joseph Anderson didn’t like the way his Easter egg turned out, and began to throw a tantrum. When teachers told him calmly that he needed to quiet down or be sent to the hospital, he jumped on his desk and screamed, “I just want my mommy!” He was then handcuffed and taken to the hospital by a New York City police officer, even though his mother was on her way to the school.
“He was crying and saying, ‘I want Mommy,’” his mother, Jessica Anderson, said. “Why handcuff him? Why get the cops involved? He’s only 7.”
The NYPD says that they acted appropriately. In a statement, they said that not only was Joseph yelling and crying, he was “acting in a threatening manner.” School officials said that they did everything they could to calm him, but it wasn’t enough. “The school tried to defuse the situation and then called for outside assistance when there was a concern the child would harm himself or others,” explained City Education Department spokesperson Marge Feinberg.
The police went further. “He was a danger to himself and others in the classroom,” a NYPD spokesman said. “He started spitting and cursing at the officers. The handcuffs were used to restrain the child because of his behavior. He was a danger to himself.” Joseph has been suspended from school for two weeks. This is the third time the school has sent him to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
According to Ms. Anderson, Joseph has been traumatized since the incident. He has been wetting the bed and throwing up. His mother adds, “”If he hears an ambulance, he runs under the bed and screams, ‘They’re going to get me.’ He’s really traumatized. I don’t let him watch the news anymore, because if he sees cops, he cries.”
Clearly, there’s so much wrong with how school officials and police officers dealt with this child, resulting in far more trauma than disappointment with an Easter egg could possibly have inspired. It is never necessary to handcuff a 7-year-old child, and even if he was behaving in a “threatening” manner, was it really appropriate to call the police? It sounds as though this may be a case of discrimination against special education students, although it’s clear that the NYPD is not averse to putting students in handcuffs more generally.
This is a horrible incident, especially in what’s supposed to be a learning environment. Clearly, both the police force and the Department of Education need to rethink whether they’re helping, punishing or traumatizing these poor students.
Photo from Fotopedia.