A Black 9-year-old boy with special needs was handcuffed in his third grade classroom while having a mental health crisis, his family claims.
The boy, who has ADHD and PTSD, was handcuffed in January by Walpole police after they were summoned by school staff — an action that reportedly goes against school policy for dealing with such episodes, according to Boston firm Lawyers for Civil Rights.
Attorney Erika Richmond, who is representing the boy and his family, told local nonprofit news network WBUR that school staff regularly referred to the boy as "big for his age" or "stronger than he looks," which can be taken as evidence of racial bias.
"We see white children being given the benefit of the doubt and treated like children, whereas this Black child was treated like a criminal," she said.
Instead of receiving positive reinforcement during a nonviolent tantrum, which is meant to help regulate emotions, the boy's lawyers say that he was handcuffed and forcibly taken to the hospital, where he was kept in the adult wing without his parents for hours.
The officers that handcuffed the boy were student resource officers, which WBUR reports are no longer required in the state of Massachusetts, but still widely used. State law says that teachers can summon SROs, who "may act to de-escalate the immediate situation (where feasible) and to protect the physical safety of members of the school community."
The family has not yet announced a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation, but they have requested an investigation into the events, as well as into the school and police department. They have also called for training reform for staff and officers.
"We want reforms," Richmond said. "We want an apology. We want them to take responsibility for what they did. We want to have a conversation with them."