This past Tuesday, police in Alton, Illinois handcuffed and arrested 8-year-old Jmyha Rickman for allegedly throwing a tantrum. While psychiatrists are proposing that temper tantrums should be labeled a new psychiatric disorder, a tantrum hardly seems like a good reason for law enforcement to show up at an elementary school and handcuff the hands and feet of a young child and detain her in the back of a police car.
Jmyha allegedly became upset on Tuesday after she was told that she could not use the restroom. As Jmyha’s uncle, Nehemiah Keeton, tells KMOV, her school, LoveJoy Elementary School, had previously contacted him when such had occurred and requested that he pick her up. On Tuesday, he was on his way to the school to do so and had informed school officials that he was en route.
But Alton police said that the school had contacted them and that Jmyha had been “out of control” and “tearing up” two classrooms when they arrived.
School officials from Alton are standing by their decision to call in the police. “As a last resort we sometimes have to involve law enforcement,” Alton Schools Assistant Superintendent Kristi Baumgartner says to news station KMOV. She also says that police “take the student into protective custody when the parent refuses to pick up the child.”
Alton Schools Went Too Far In Contacting the Police About Jmyha
As a result of all she has been through, Jmyha is now afraid to return to school, says Keeton. As he tells KMOV: “I feel like if you can’t handle an 8-year-old without calling the police, to put fear in them like my child, you don’t need to work with kids.”
As Jmyha’s family notes, the 8-year-old has “dealt with anxiety problems and separation anxiety.” Keeton had been contacted before by the school to pick her up after teachers “held her down” — that is, even before the handcuffing and arrest of Jmyha on Tuesday, LoveJoy Elementary School was already not addressing her needs in an appropriate fashion. Physically restraining a child is not a practice that should be done without the consent of a child’s parents. Even more, physical restraint should only be considered as a possible procedure after analyzing why a child might be having behavioral issues and after implementing educational strategies.
Jmyha’s arrest by law enforcement, at her own elementary school, reflects a disturbing pattern in how some U.S. schools have been addressing challenging behaviors in students who are minorities. Last April, another African-American child, 6-year-old Salecia Johnson, was handcuffed and arrested for a temper tantrum, The Root points out. In December, the New York Police Department handcuffed and held a 7-year-old boy, Wilson Reyes, for hours after his school contacted law enforcement regarding a missing $5.
The words of Jmyha’s uncle, Keeton, resonate. A school district that has come to rely on police to deal with its students is one that does not know how to teach them and that does not seem to have the best interests of children in mind.
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