Atlanta — Just a month after a federal education department survey found racial disparities in school arrests, a debate is brewing over police handcuffing a 6-year-old Georgia girl after she threw a tantrum in her elementary school class.
According to a police report obtained by WMAZ, the Macon, Ga., television station that first reported the story, kindergartner Salecia Johnson tore items off the walls, threw books, jumped on a paper shredder and tossed a small shelf unit that hit the a teacher’s leg in an outburst last Friday at Creekside Elementary School in Milledgeville.
After trying six times to reach a family member, school officials said they called police. When an officer tried to calm the child in the principal's office, Salecia, who is African American, resisted and, according to the officer’s report, “began actively resisting and fighting with me.”
She "was restrained by placing her hands behind her back and handcuffed,” the officer stated, and was walked out to the patrol car “and placed in the rear seat.”
A juvenile complaint was filed, accusing the girl of simple battery and damage to property.
Interim Police Chief Dray Swicord said in an Associated Press report that the Milledgeville police department's policy is to handcuff people when they are taken to the police station, regardless of their age.
Swicord said in a statement to the media that the officer noted the damage to the principal's office before placing the child in handcuffs, a story on the website of WXIA-TV in Atlanta reported.
"He placed the student in handcuffs for the student's safety as well as others," Swicord said in the WXIA story. "The student's safety was the utmost importance."
Swicord noted that while transported to the police station, the 6-year-old was never placed in a cell and, because of her age, will not face any charges.
According to the AP, Salecia’s family is demanding that Milledgeville change its policy so that other children aren't treated the same way. They say Salecia was shaken up by the ordeal.
"A 6-year-old in kindergarten,” Earnest Johnson, the girl’s father, told WMAZ. “They don't have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child."
Read more at 13WMAZ.