Jmyha Rickman and her guardian (KMOV)
Jmyha Rickman and her guardian (KMOV)

Temper tantrums are by no means desirable or pleasant, but they're definitely in the range of normal childhood behavior. These days they're also treated like a criminal offense — and in too many of the cases that have made the headlines, it seems that the harshly disciplined "perpetrators" (we'd call them victims) are African-American kids.


St Louis, Mo.' KMOV 4 reports that 8-year-old, 70-pound Jmyha Rickman was handcuffed and held by police for two hours after throwing a tantrum at school. She was reportedly upset because she wasn't allowed to use the restroom. Police officers, who believe they took "appropriate action," said they received a call from the school and said a child was "out of control" and "tearing up" two classrooms.

There has to be a better way of dealing with children's misbehavior — specifically, one that does not include the criminal-justice system.


Here's what the Advancement Project's Judith Browne Dianis said in a piece for The Root, in which she reflected on the April handcuffing and arrest of 6-year-old Salecia Johnson:

… There is a better way. Graduation rates in Baltimore reached record highs after the school system did away with zero-tolerance policies. Out-of-school suspensions decreased 64 percent, and youth crime has gone down. In Denver, parents and students successfully organized to get the school system to implement a commonsense approach to discipline that led to a 68 percent reduction in police tickets, a 40 percent reduction in out-of-school suspensions and higher attendance and graduation rates.

These are just two of several school districts across the country that have adopted disciplinary policies that minimize the role of police and give students, like Salecia, the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. These schools understand that we all lose when we don't nurture our children to their full potential.

Handcuffing young children is never OK. Schools must use more-appropriate ways to intervene when kids misbehave. Calling the police for a 6-year-old's temper tantrum is extreme. Police should be used as a last resort when a true threat to safety exists. 


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