ATLANTA (AP) — Police in Georgia handcuffed a kindergartner with her arms behind her back, after the girl threw a tantrum and the police chief defended the action as a safety measure.
The girl's family demanded Tuesday that central Georgia city change policy, so that other children are not treated the same way. They say the child was shaken up by the ordeal.
While it is unusual to see a young child handcuffed in school, it is not unheard of. School officials around the nation have wrestled with the issue of when it is appropriate to call police on a student.
Salecia Johnson, 6, was accused of tearing items off the walls and throwing books and toys in an outburst Friday at Creekside Elementary School in Milledgeville, according to a police report.
Police said a small shelf thrown by the child struck the principal in the leg during the fracas. The child also jumped on a paper shredder and tried to break a glass frame.
The school called police. When an officer tried to calm the child in the principal's office, she resisted, police say. She "was restrained by placing her hands behind her back and handcuffed," a police report states.
A juvenile complaint was filed, accusing the girl of simple battery and damage to property.
The police department's policy is to handcuff people when they are taken to the police station, regardless of their age, interim Police Chief Dray Swicord said.
He said the child was restrained with steel cuffs, the only kind the department uses.
"The reason we handcuff detainees is for the safety of themselves as well as the officer," he said Tuesday.
The girl's aunt, Candace Ruff, went with the child's mother to pick her up from the police station. She said Salecia had been in a holding cell and complained about the handcuffs.
The police chief said the girl was taken to the police department's squad room, not a holding cell, and officers there tried to calm her and gave her a Coke.
Officials at Creekside Elementary did not immediately return calls Tuesday.
The girl’s mother reported that her daughter was suspended and will not return to school until August.