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The families of two disabled elementary students won a settlement in excess of $337,000 from a the Kenton County Sheriff's Office in Kentucky for a systematic practice of harmful and unconstitutional handcuffing. This comes after a federal district court ruled in 2017 that the punishment officers inflicted, notably handcuffing the biceps of disabled students behind their backs, was "an unconstitutional seizure and excessive force."
Prior to the federal court case, the Sheriff's Office had been warned that their systematic punishment of disabled students at numerous local elementary schools was cruel and unusual. These students suffered immeasurably after the cuffing incident, including repeated nightmares, bed-wetting, abnormal parental attachment. However, the Office insisted that the handcuffings were a proper use of force and would not change its policies, thus forcing the trial. And now the department is paying the price
If it struck you as odd that a sheriff was disciplining elementary school students in the classroom, that is exactly the point that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was fighting when representing the plaintiffs. The ACLU believes that police are ill-equipped to be disciplining students, especially students with disabilities, and even more so when these disabled students are people of color, as in this case. They feel this sort of specialty is outside the wheelhouse of law enforcement, and are hoping this settlement deters other law enforcement offices from entering the classroom to discipline. But if they do, the ACLU also hopes this serves as a warning not to use excessive force and unconstitutional seizure.
If you or your loved ones are experiencing discipline in school that violates constitutional rights, contact a civil rights attorney. The young and the disabled are often unaware of their rights and what is outside the scope and course of acceptable behavior. But the police shouldn't be. Don't be afraid to stand up and be heard.
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