Why Are Children Being Handcuffed at School?

According to AlterNet, students at Capital City Alternative School in Mississippi are routinely handcuffed for hours as punishment for minor misbehavior. On June 8, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Jackson Public School District for allowing this type of punishment. The lawsuit was filed after the school district refused to respond to a letter from the Southern Poverty Law Center asking that this practice be stopped.

The AlterNet article gives some examples of the incidents where students were handcuffed to railings as a punishment:

  • One student was handcuffed all day for not wearing a belt. He even had to eat his lunch handcuffed.
  • Another student was handcuffed for hours for greeting a friend too loudly in the hallway.
  • A third student was handcuffed for wearing the wrong colored shoes. 

This is not the first time this has happened. There are many cases of schools using handcuffs or other restraints to punish children. Some examples include:

  • In July 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against officials at a Louisiana school for repeatedly handcuffing and shackling a 6-year-old child.
  • In May 2010, Police handcuffed a 10-year-old boy with autism at Oberon Public School in Geelong, Australia.
  • In December 2008, an 8-year-girl with Asperger’s was handcuffed because she refused to take off a sweatshirt that she wanted to wear to the Christmas party.
  • In April 2011, a 7-year-old boy was handcuffed when he became upset while decorating Easter eggs at Public School 153 in Maspeth Long Island.
  • In 2004, a 10-year-old in Philidelphia was handcuffed and taken to a police station for having scissors in her bag, even though she hadn’t threatened anyone with them or even displayed them.

These incidents are, unfortunately, even more common among children with disabilities. As our own Kristina Chew has written: “In other words, ‘abusive practices’ such as prone restraint were ‘disproportionately’ used on children who are disabled—on children whose needs and challenges, whose communicative and cognitive disabilities, are far greater than that of most.”

Jody Owens, from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office was quoted by AlterNet as saying: “Not only does this handcuffing policy violate the U.S. Constitution but it demonstrates a diseased school culture and a broken model of school discipline that focuses on criminalizing students at the expense of educating them.”

I agree with this assessment. When children across the country are being handcuffed for minor issues, it demonstrates a significant problem that needs addressing. Hopefully it will be addressed soon. Last month, Care2′s Kristina Chew wrote about the US Department of Education’s plan to issue guidelines to school districts on the use of restraints and other tactics. Hopefully making this a national issue will help to ensure that children are treated with dignity and respect in public schools.

Sign the Petition: Schools Are Not Prisons – Speak Out Against Handcufffing as Punishment.

Related stories:

US Dept of Education Will Issue Guidelines About Restraints & Seclusion in Schools

Six-Year Old Student Handcuffed: Parents File Suit Against New Orleans School

Will the Students First Act Really Put Students First?

Photo credit: Mindsay Mohan on flickr


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold6 years ago

This using of handcuffs, shackles and force on children is disgusting and unnecessary. The officials don't want to get hurt and don't want to take the time to find another solution to the problem. The use the adult solution and find it works quickly regardless of the age and/or condition (able or disabled) of the child. To me, this is an extreme example of bullying.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran6 years ago


Marilyn J L.
Marilyn J. L6 years ago

How is this better than spanking? Both are cruel & humiliating. What are we teaching our children -- both those who are treated this way & their classmates -- while we do this?

Deborah L.
Deborah Lashever6 years ago

Of course, these kids don't live in rich, white communities.......

Handcuffing these kids prepares them for the humiliation and degradation they will feel from society for not being healthy, wealthy, white and male.

You wanted public schools to prepare kids for life, didn't you? Well.......

Trevor G.
Trevor G.6 years ago

OH. MY. GAWD. A ten year old was taken into custody for owning scissors???! How stupid was the cop that brought the ten year old in?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B7 years ago

Agree with Lika S.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

People don't have sense anymore. We need discipline in our schools, not arrested students.

Don Cordell
Donald Cordell7 years ago

The New America, as you continue to elect RepubliCons and DemocRats. SWAT team invasions of our homes. Citizens in public accosted by police who demand indentification and submit to full body searches. Courts demand you admit guilt, or you are in Contempt of Court. Will our children now grow up expecting this kind of government abuse? When will our citizens stand up and ReVote to Restore our Constitution AND Bill of Rights. I am here to restore your rights, to treat our children as citizens protected for all of our Rights. I am furious about this behavour, If it were my child that teacher would be in trouble, and if the school administration did not do something, they'd also be in trouble. I had this instance with my daughter being searched in school about 1972, I confronted the girls counceller as "was she a legal police officer"? NO! then what makes you think you can violate my daughters Civil Rights. Case closed, I can be very demanding of my childrens rights, and I get results, don't surrender any of our Rights, our ancestors fought and died for us to have the Freedoms we are promised. Don't let them push you into surrender of any Rights. Lets protect our children, and teach them this is a nation of Laws to protect all of us.

My Word
My Word7 years ago

What a bunch of sissies in the school system.

I bet you they where never exposed to the old rules and therefore have little to NO idea what it means to control misbehaving kids, or not knowing the difference between being a kid and being uncontrollable.