BELTON, Texas – Officials in Belton, Texas are struggling to explain why police handcuffed an emotionally troubled second-grader who recently threw a tantrum in his school cafeteria.
“It is not our policy to call law enforcement to deal with an unruly elementary student,” Belton Independent School District spokesman Kyle DeBeer told the Temple Daily Telegram. “As the guideline notes, school resource officers are first and foremost law enforcement officers and should be called upon when there is reason to believe that a crime occurred.”
Joshua Caruso was irate when he and his wife were called to Joe M. Pirtle Elementary School Tuesday to pick up his 8-year-old stepson after the child threw a tantrum in the cafeteria. The couple told the news site they arrived to find a Temple Police officer standing guard over the student, who was huddled in the corner of a room with no furniture.
Caruso said principal Pam Neves was confrontational about the situation, which evolved from acting out in the cafeteria to kicking and moving things in the principal’s office before Neves called the police.
Neves reportedly demanded to know how the school should have handled the child before issuing a two day out-of-school suspension and a one day in-school suspension over the incident.
“My wife told her she should have let him calm down,” Caruso said.
“He’s had behavior problems the last three weeks, and we’re concerned that he’s grown a lot and his medicine might not be strong enough,” he said, adding that his stepson was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in kindergarten.
“He didn’t hurt anyone,” Caruso said. “He just made a mess.”
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Temple Police spokeswoman Shawna Neely said an officer was dispatched to Pirtle Elementary and arrived at the school around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, when school staff informed the officer that the student had thrown chairs in the cafeteria and office, and struck staff members working to intervene, KWTX reports.
“The officer noticed that the teachers were visibly shaken and overwhelmed with the ongoing emotional crisis of the student and unsure of what steps needed to be taken,” according to the release.
After unsuccessful attempts to talk with the child, the officer demanded the boy sit in a chair, which didn’t work out so well.
“The student continued to respond in a manner that placed himself and others at risk of possible injury,” the statement said. “In an effort to prevent the student from injuring himself or others he was placed in restrains.”
The second-grader’s hands were too small, however, and the handcuffs “proved to be ineffective,” Neely wrote. So instead, the officer “maintained control of the student until a parent arrived.”
Local police are now working with district officials to develop better ways of handling similar situations in the future, KCEN reports.
District superintendent Susan Kincannon also released a statement about the incident Tuesday that included an apology to the family for the school staff’s reaction to the child’s outbursts.
“While we are continuing to investigate this incident, I want to apologize to the student and the student’s family,” Kincannon wrote, according to the Daily Telegram. “It is not our practice to call the police for unruly elementary students.”