COVINGTON, Ky. (CN) – A deputy sheriff handcuffed an 8-year-old and a 9-year-old at school in Kentucky, pinning their tiny arms above the elbows behind their backs, two mothers claim in federal court.
Described in the Aug. 3 complaint only by their initials, 8-year-old S.R. and 9-year-old L.G. allegedly endured the improper restraints on three occasions in fall 2014.
At the time, the students, both of whom suffer from disabilities, were elementary students in the Covington Independent Public Schools District, their mothers claim.
Kenton County Sheriff Charles Korzenborn entered into a deal with the district last summer to provide four deputies to serve as school resource officers through June 2015, according to the complaint.
The mothers say it was one of these officers, Kevin Sumner, who used unnecessary excessive force on their children.
“Because of the children’s small size in comparison to the handcuffs, which are designed for adults, defendant Sumner handcuffed them behind their backs and placed the handcuffs on their biceps (above the elbows),” the federal complaint states (parentheses in original).
Standing at just 3 ½ feet tall in the 2014-15 school year, S.R. was a 52-pound third-grade boy at Latonia Elementary School diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
L.G., a fourth grader last year at Carlisle Elementary School, also suffers from ADHD and weighed 56 pounds, her mother says.
“Portions of one of the three handcuffing incidents is captured on video,” the complaint states. “On no occasion was there an imminent danger of physical harm to the child or to anyone else that required defendant Sumner to handcuff the child behind the back above the elbow.”
S.R.’s mother says the video shows Sumner telling her son: “You can do what we ask you to or you can suffer the consequences.”
“Oh, God,” S.R. replied, as quoted in the complaint. “Ow, that hurts.”
This was the only occasion S.R. was handcuffed, according to the complaint.
Sumner allegedly put the cuffs on L.G. twice last year, the first time because she had been screaming in class.
L.G.’s mother says Sumner placed her daughter in the back of his police car and took her home.
Sumner handcuffed the girl again in October when she tried to leave the school isolation room, according to the complaint.
“On no occasion was there an imminent danger of physical harm to the child or to anyone else that required Defendant Sumner to handcuff the child behind the back above the elbow,” the complaint states.
Sumner’s abuse has left the with “pain, fear, emotional trauma and an exacerbation of their disabilities,” according to the complaint.
The mothers blame Sheriff Korzenborn for authorizing Sumner and other school resource officers “to use mechanical restraints in such a way as to constitute excessive force in restraining elementary school children with disabilities.”
The complaint cites a 2009 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office that documented hundreds of incidents of “restraint and seclusion in schools,” including 20 deaths between 1990 and 2009.
That study allegedly led to the Kentucky Board of Education to limit the use of such restraints to incidents in which the “student’s behavior poses and imminent danger of physical harm.”
The mothers seek injunctions against the handcuffing and punitive damages for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and their children’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.
They are represented by R. Kenyon Meyer with Dinsmore & Shohl in Louisville, Rickell Howard with the Children’s Law Center, William Sharp with the ACLU of Kentucky, and Claudia Center of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation.
Published by Courthouse News Service