A Muskogee, Oklahoma mother is calling out school officials after her 14-year-old son was handcuffed in class and hauled to a juvenile detention center for alleged excessive absences.
The mother, identified only as Stephanie, told KOTV a police officer arrived at her son’s class at Alice Robertson Junior High this week and cuffed the boy in front of his classmates, then put him in a cruiser and took the child to the Community Intervention Center.
“He comes out and the first thing he says is, ‘Mom, my wrists hurt.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘The handcuffs were tight,’” Stephanie said, adding that handcuffs were completely unnecessary.
“It’s ridiculous that they feel threatened by a 14-year-old child that hasn’t done anything to anybody, that’s never been in trouble with the law,” she said.
School officials wouldn’t discuss the child’s specific situation, but spokesman Steve Braum told KOKI “four absences in a four week period leads to a possible citation, and that’s Oklahoma state statute.”
Upon a fifth absence, parents must sign the citation and most do, he said. But if they don’t they’re handcuffed and hauled to the detention center, behind the county jail. Parents are then forced to pick them up and sign the citation.
Stephanie said the school alleges her son has 18 absences, but she contends some are excused with doctor’s notes. Regardless of the total days, she said, the boy doesn’t deserve to be treated like a criminal for her failure.
“Even if it was 20 (days), they shouldn’t have handcuffed him in front of everybody,” she said.
Stephanie acknowledged that a family emergency prevented her from getting to the school to sign the citation, but believes the school needs a better system for dealing with absences.
“It’s my fault … it’s not my 14-year-old son’s fault because he doesn’t have a car to get himself there,” she said. “I’m willing to take responsibility for the days he did miss.”
“Them arresting him and putting handcuffs on him and leaving marks on him and traumatizing him, from my perspective, is unacceptable,” she said.
Braum disputed the mother’s characterization of her son’s “arrest” and alleged the boy was “more just taken into custody in a sense” as a “last resort,” KOTV reports.
“We want our students to be in school,” he said. “They can’t learn if they’re not there.”
Braun alleged “handcuffing is a safety precaution if they’re going to be put into a patrol car.”
School officials told the media the district plans to look for ways to improve communication with parents.
Stephanie, meanwhile, is set to appear in court next month to face a judge regarding her son’s excessive absences.