by Scott Wartman , firstname.lastname@example.org –
What we reported: The Enquirer reported on the video of an eight-year-old student at Latonia Elementary handcuffed by a school resource officer in 2014. The families of the student, identified as only S.R., along with another handcuffed student, identified only as L.G., sued Kenton County, the sheriff and the school resource officer, Deputy Kevin Sumner. That case is still pending.
The video sparked a national debate that remains unsettled more than a year later.
It showed the back of the head of an 8-year-old boy seated in a chair at Latonia Elementary in Covington, his biceps bound in adult handcuffs applied by a school resource officer as the child kicked and whimpered.
The minute-long clip shot in 2014 spread across the Internet after attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union released it in August 2015. The organization condemned the school resource officer’s actions. The sheriff defended his deputy’s actions to subdue an unruly child who tried to punch the deputy in the arm.
Should the school resource officer have handcuffed the child, identified only as S.R.? A federal court judge or jury has yet to decide.
A lawsuit filed in August 2015 by the the families of S.R. and another student, L.G., has slowly progressed and has no trial date set. Both L.G. and S.R. and their families have moved out of Covington and go to school in a different school system, their attorney said.
Even though the lawsuit remains unresolved the families of S.R. and L.G. might have already achieved one of their goals — to discourage schools from using handcuffs on small children, said Claudia Center, attorney for the ACLU representing the families of S.R. and L.G.
Center and her fellow attorneys have only found one case in Covington elementary schools in the past year in which a student was handcuffed. The attorneys for the families of S.R. and L.G., in the course of the lawsuit, uncovered at least six handcuffing instances in Covington elementary schools in the final three months of 2014.
Covington school district no longer has a school resource officer permanently patrolling elementary schools, she said. That doesn’t mean the end of school resource officers in Covington. The school system still has them, including the one involved with handcuffing S.R. and L.G., Kevin Sumner.
“To put an SRO into an elementary school is a mismatch, ” Center said. “An armed law enforcement officer with handcuffs with small children, some having temper tantrums. It’s not a good fit for society.”
The number of handcuffings and whether SRO’s no longer patrol elementary schools regularly couldn’t be independently verified.
Messages left forSuperintendent Alvin Garrison weren’t returned this week. School spokeswoman Debra Vance was not able to confirm whether handcuffings have gone down and whether elementary schools no longer had school resource officers regularly patrolling the halls.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs had trouble finding the number of students handcuffed at Covington schools since the school district officials don’t track statistics on students being handcuffed, Center said. They had to rely on the memories of the principals who then looked into the student files for possible instances where a student was handcuffed. They found only one confirmed case since Aug. 2015, she said.
The legal question, however, might take another year to resolve. Both sides have stayed firm. The attorneys for the families of S.R. and L.G. have argued in court the students were restrained without probable cause. They both suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder while doctors also had diagnosed S.R. with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The sheriff’s department maintains Sumner acted appropriately when he handcuffed L.G. and S.R. When asked this week by The Enquirer, Kenton County Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn said he stands by his statement he made last year that Sumner “did what he is sworn to do and in conformity with all constitutional and law enforcement standards.”
He wouldn’t elaborate any further saying the judge in the case told them to not talk to the press. Has the sheriff changed the department’s policies regarding shackling students? “No,” Korzenborn said.
Sumner’s attorney, Justin Sanders, said he and his client couldn’t comment on the case. Messages to the attorney for Kenton County, Christopher Nordloh, were not returned.
The lawsuit claims S.R. was in the handcuffs for 15 minutes after a teacher and vice principal complained that he wouldn’t follow orders. Sumner, in an investigation report filed months later, wrote that S.R. tried to punch him in the elbow, the lawsuit stated.
L.G. also was placed in handcuffs around her biceps after not complying with a teacher and trying to leave the isolation room, the lawsuit stated. The experience so distressed L.G. that she had to be taken by ambulance to a local hospital for psychiatric assessment and treatment.
For the past year, the defense and plaintiffs have deposed witnesses and experts, much of which remains under seal to protect the identity of the students.
As for L.G. and S.R., they’re doing well in other school districts in the Cincinnati region, Center said. She wouldn’t disclose which school district.
“It’s not uncommon in these situations for the family to leave the area,” Center said. “A lot of the time the children need to just get into another school district.”