A deputy sheriff shackled two elementary school children who have disabilities, causing them pain and trauma, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the Children’s Law Center, Dinsmore & Shohl,and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The children, an 8-year-old boy and a 9 year-old girl, were so small that the school resource officer, Kenton County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner in Covington, Kentucky, locked the handcuffs around the children’s biceps and forced their hands behind their backs, the lawsuit charges. A disturbing video LINK shows the boy, S.R., being shackled and crying out in pain. S.R. has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a history of trauma. The girl, L.G, was twice handcuffed behind her back by her biceps, also causing her pain. L.G. has ADHD and other special needs. Both children were being punished for behavior related to their disabilities. Neither was arrested nor charged with any criminal conduct.
The lawsuit seeks an order requiring a change in policies by the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office, and additional training for school resource officers in dealing with young children and children with special needs. It also seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages against the School Resource Officer.
On October 2, 2015 the United States Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in the matter of S.R. v. Kenton County, et al, noting an interest in assisting the federal Court with the legal standards to be used in evaluating claims against school resource officers relative to use of force and the ADA. “This litigation implicates the rights of children in schools to be free from unconstitutional police seizures, the rights of children with disabilities to be free from disability-based discrimination, and the rights of children to be free from civil rights violations that lead to the cycle of harsh school discipline and law enforcement involvement known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.””
In an opinion issued on December 28, 2015, the District Court Judge presiding over S.R. et. al. v. Kenton County Sheriff et. al, issued an opinion denying the Defendant SRO and Sheriff’s Office Motion to Dismiss the child-Plaintiffs’ cases—permitting the case to proceed in federal court. The civil rights lawsuit was filed in August 2015 by the Children’s Law Center, Dinsmore & Shohl, and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two elementary school children with disabilities who were shackled by a school resource officer.