Police in Georgia are under fire today for overreacting to a tantrum by six-year-old kindergartner Salecia Johnson.
School officials allege the young girl threw items across the room and knocked over a bookshelf which struck the principal in the leg during a tantrum. When they couldn’t get her to calm down, administrators at Creekside Elementary School enlisted the help of the local police.
When officers arrived, they observed the girl screaming and crying on the floor of the principal’s office.
The officer stated in the report that he noticed damage to school property and tried numerous times to calm the girl, who eventually “pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me.”
“The child was then placed in handcuffs for her safety and the officer proceeded to bring her down to the police station,” said Chief Dray Swicord.
Although the officer insists putting the little girl in handcuffs was for her own safety and wasn’t a form of punishment, her parents think otherwise.
“Call the police? Is that the first step?” Constance Ruff, Johnson’s mother wondered.
“They don’t have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child,” said Salecia’s father, Earnest Johnson.
Johnson’s mother also questioned whether or not the school could have employed other methods of intervention before turning to the law.
Little Salecia was initially charged as a juvenile with simple battery of a schoolteacher and criminal damage to property, but the charges were dropped, and police insist she was never placed in a holding cell.
While I understand the school’s need to calm Salecia down, turning to police officers seems like an overreaction. This incident is also just another example in a long list of the ways in which minority children are often criminalized in school.
From being detained for truancy and being late to class, to being suspended at higher rates and being handcuffed when they are deemed unruly, black children often find themselves being treated more like adults than their peers which perpetuates the myth that black folks are more violent and thus more suspect than everyone else.
What do you think of the police’s decision to handcuff a kindergartner?