Friday, 22 April 2005

Cops handcuff five-year-old

Robert’s post below juxtaposes rather oddly with this bizarre ABC News story I just saw on memeorandum. Freaky.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

So the police handcuffed a five-year-old girl in Florida… Why does everything controversial lately happen in Florida? Is Jeb Bush keeping us so focused on trivialities that we ignore the serious issues within his brother’s administration? Mmmm…

In any case, hurray for the teacher and police for dealing appropriately with a little brat who is likely the offspring of socially irresponsible parents. I hope the mother sues the police and the school board so a jury can throw her personal responsibility back in her face.

If my kid ever acted up like this child did, I would insist that they be handcuffed AND paraded in front of their classmates. A little shame at five years of age would serve my child well for the rest of his/her life.

Is there a spare continent where we can keep all the anti-socials and anarchists? Oops, too late… Australia got civilized and ruined the whole prison colony idea, proving that even the anti-social miscreants who formed that country’s populace eventually get tired of throwing temper tantrums.

As a society we’ve swung too far toward tolerance for anti-social behavior. Twenty years ago a jury would have laughed at abuse charges for a parent who swatted a misbehaving child in a public place. Now it’s national news. While I do not condone any pattern of abuse, it’s time for a more reasonable view of the role parents must take in integrating even difficult children into the world around them.

“Corporal punishment infringes upon the rights of the child and stunts personal and artistic development,” say the experts.

“Fine,” say those of us with a little perspective, “Let’s trade a few personal rights in acknowledgment of the rights of the rest of civilization, and let’s trade a few exquisite finger paintings for a little “please, thank you, and pardon me”.


I have been working with kids for over ten years now, and I think that it’s pretty obvious that there was something wrong with the girl. It is also very true that she is only five, and that five year olds tend to have very wicked temper tantrums.

Although I applaud the teachers for trying their best not to get upset with her, I think it was a very poor judgment call for them to involve the police. Handcuffing a child of five is NEVER acceptable because handcuffs were invented to control grown ADULTS that have done something reprehensible- I think that if the staff could not control the girl for the hour that it would take for her mother to arrive, they ought to question the responsibility attached to their positions.

Teachers, or any other person that works with children, have no right to get that involved with a child’s discipline. I think that they crossed the line with the duty of the parent.

I do believe that in addition to a form of autism, the child suffers from poor upbringing, as well. But, even so, it is up to the parent to come and get their own child and handle the situation from there. If there’s anybody that should have been in handcuffs, it should have been the mother for not taking better control of a situation that was not new, from the way the teachers acted on the video.

Also, I find that the teachers should have let the girl remain in a supervised space until her mother came, because hovering around a stressed person and trying to foil their actions only adds fuel to the fury. However, they did try to stop her, and I can completely understand that.

I question the priorities of the police department for responding so quickly to a call of that nature (a five year old acting up), when there are so many other matters in the community that require more urgency…. After all, she was not brandishing a gun and planning major warfare. It’s too bad that the authorities only jump when little guys say “boo”. The bad guys, like the ones that SAID they were going to blow up the WTC, get off scotch free because the authorities are too busy paying attention to nonsense.

It makes no sense to claim that they are calming America’s next generation of “monsters” with this tactic. Hello!! We are MAKING this generation of “monsters”, and if they are truly “monsters”, then what are we? Didn’t a human sperm and a human ova come together to create this mess? Are we just a bunch of self-righteous grown-ups who never acted like that? Or are we too uplifted to realize that sometimes we can be wrong?

I question the ethics behind handcuffing a child, and I question the people who agree with this kind of punishment. Remember that there was a time when people thought that lobotomies, electroshock treatments and cold water splashes were a good way to revive hysteria. I am appalled that some people, in this day and age, the YEAR 2005, still have that kind of mentality. I’m also sad to think that they would probably resort to 18th century quack doctor practices to try to calm an unruly child.

Using the handcuffs was not only elementary, it was very primitive for a nation so distinguished as America, that prides itself on justice and fairness. A man once told me, “America is gone to the dogs.”

It hurts me, but I believe it. Shame on you who would prefer to handcuff a BABY, after history teaches us that kids have been throwing tantrums since the beginning of time….

[Permalink] 3. Loni Hull wrote @ Sat, 30 Apr 2005, 12:59 pm CDT:

So you’ve seen the videos and you’ve read the two opinions above. The side you take will depend more upon your own temperament than upon how convincing our arguments are.

Gi writes the he/she has been working with children for ten years and equates using handcuffs on a five-year-old with “18th century quack doctor practices”.

I find the “enlightened modern opinion” of Gi to be flawed in several respects, though I will say from the outset that my wife’s opinion (she is a pre-school teacher and day-care provider with students as old as six) was more in line with Gi’s than my own until she saw the video (italics on the last five words).

First of all, a five-year-old is not a BABY. It does nothing to prove the logic of a position to generate sympathy for your point of view with cute semantics.

Secondly, though medical and psychiatric science have come a long way since the 18th century, the societal imperative that parents be responsible for introduction of their child into polite society has been decimated, to the detriment of us all. Our society is inferior to 18th century society in this respect. Why the difference? Parental selfishness, parental distraction, parental immaturity (“children raising children”), television, video games, the bad example of the people next door; the list goes on and on. “Family” is a word without much meaning anymore, causing many of us to long for the values of the 18th century.

Thirdly, Gi makes the argument that we would have to be self-righteous not to identify with the child, because we were all disobedient children at one point (I was one of the worst : ) ). Is this true? Or is it more true to say that we remember with embarrassment the uncouth little monsters we sometimes were and are grateful to the adults in our lives who used the disciplinary tools they had to straightnen us up?

We have castrated parents and teachers with our soft-hearted insistence upon individual rights. We have taken away many of the tools they need to make children into acceptable adults. Should society at large suffer because we cater to the whims of a single misbehaving child? Have we become exactly the kind of pushovers that the “tantruming five-year-olds” (whatever their age) of the world expect us to be? Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.

Lastly, Gi says, “Teachers, or any other person that works with children, have no right to get that involved with a child’s discipline. I think that they crossed the line with the duty of the parent.”

As a person who has worked with children for ten years, how sad you must be, Gi! You’ve missed the whole point of your role for TEN YEARS, and are therefore contributing to the problem. It is precisely the role of teachers and day-care providers to get involved with a child’s discipline. That is what parents expect and often pay exorbitant sums to assure!

The meaning of the word discipline comes from a root that denotes “training”. With that in mind, a teacher’s role is to do nothing else but discipline students (what HAVE you been doing, Gi???). And if you mean discipline in the sense of “punishment”, who do you think parents trust to provide punishment if their child misbehaves during the six or so hours they are at school?

If it is never acceptable for a parent to share the responsibilities of parenting with “the village”, we need to go back to a feudal society where sons and daughters work side by side with mother’s and fathers all day long and are not LEGALLY REQUIRED to go to school. Is that what we want? (Maybe it ought to be…, but we’re far too selfish to spend all day every day with our kids)

Therefore, it is a legal precept that the parental role of disciplinarian will be shared with certain adults trained to share in the upbringing of children. And those are the very people we have abused, cutting their wages and insulting their dignity (how prestigious is the occupation of “teacher”? How prestigious SHOULD it be?).

Worse yet, we fire them, put them under media scrutiny, or call them “child-abusers” when they punish children by putting them in the corner or in “time-out”! We call it “emotionally damaging public humilation”, and God forbid the teacher lays a finger on a child that refuses to accept such discipline!

My wife watched the video of the five-year-old being handcuffed, and while she agreed that the police seemed awfully quick to cuff a child who appeared to have settled down, she felt tremendous pity for teachers who have no right to do the job entrusted to them.

She had a five-year-old boy in her class two years ago who she describes as “much worse than the little girl” in the Florida incident. The difference? At my wife’s school, teachers have just slightly more authority within their charter to deal with unruly students, including “the right to physically restrain a child who becomes a danger to himself or other students”.

There were days when this remarkably strong little boy put bruises all over my wife’s body as she tried to separate him from the classroom he was tearing apart. Eventually she would get hold of him and wrap him in a tight embrace until he calmed down, speak calmly to him and let him know that she loved him and he was going to be okay.

She says she feels fortunate that the little boy did not bruise easily, because it took a great deal of strength just to hold him. Can you guess what would have happened to her if she had put bruises on that poor innocent little child?

To this day, she defends him as being a sweet little boy at heart, with a horrendous home life and – worse than no disipline at all – parents who set terrible examples and emotionally traumatized their son whenever they weren’t in jail. The boy needed a good example, he needed love, he needed training, and sometimes, yes, he needed punishment.

If we take away the ability of teachers to provide those things, we leave ourselves no option but to bring in the parents for every little misbehavior. If they can’t come, we have to call the police. If that strikes you as ludicrous, it’s because it is. And WE made it this way.

So the police came into the school in Florida and were told that the little girl had been out of control for over an hour, that she would seem to calm down but then start another rampage. They saw the debris-field left in the child’s wake. They must have thought the situation was extreme for them to have to be called in, and it was their job to do SOMETHING.

So they did what they were trained to do. How would they have explained themselves if they had done nothing and the rampage continued? It was a no-win situation for them.

Do I advocate hand-cuffing five-year-olds? In ideal circumstances, of course not. I advocate a world where we don’t have to, because teachers and parents would do their jobs – without abuse, but also without neglect. But a world where we handcuff five-year-olds is all we have left.

We’re outraged, and we want to blame someone, but it’s not the fault of the police.

As a society, it’s OUR FAULT. Shame on us.

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