Toolbox Tuesday!! Let’s talk about handcuffs.

Maybe you remember the video that went viral a few years ago, showing a skinny little boy from Kentucky, squirming and crying as he struggled with his arms handcuffed behind his back.  Because of his small size, handcuffs on the wrists would not work. So the School SRO put the cuffs above the boy’s elbows, with his arms behind his back.  The mother later sued the SRO and the County Sheriff’s office.

The court ruled that the SRO violated the boy’s constitutional rights.  True, the boy swung his elbow at the SRO, but the court noted that “such can hardly be considered a serious physical threat from an unarmed 54-pound eight-year old child.”  It’s clear from the court’s decision that the judge was as appalled by the video as I was. Key Quote:

Finally, the method of handcuffing that Sumner [the SRO] employed leads this court to conclude that his actions were unreasonable and constituted excessive force as a matter of law.  The video of S.R. [the boy] shows that his arms were pulled tightly behind him, with only inches between his elbows.  While Sumner testified that the chain between the cuffs was as wide as S.R.’s torso, the video belies that assertion.

The SRO got off the hook in the case due to qualified immunity. While the court held that he violated the student’s constitutional rights, it also held that the law was not “clearly established” at the time.  Therefore, the SRO cannot be held liable for this constitutional violation in his individual capacity.

In the Toolbox Training we offer ten “tools” none of which involve handcuffs.  We focus on positive behavioral interventions, along with administrative and ARD Committee actions that can prevent inappropriate behavior and/or address it effectively.  If you are interested in Toolbox training, please let me know.

This case is S.R. v. Kenton County Sheriff’s Office, decided by the federal court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on October 11, 2017.  We found it at 2017 WL 4545231.  Tomorrow we will tell you about how the sheriff’s office came out in this case. Stay tuned!


Tomorrow: A case that made me think of Tammy Wynette….