Handcuffing an out-of-control Georgia kindergartner. Was there a better response?

UPDATE Tuesday at 1:22 p.m.: Since writing about this yesterday when there was just the one news story, this incident has drawn widespread attention around the country.

The AJC now has a more detailed story online.

That story states:

Police said a small shelf thrown by the child struck the principal in the leg during the fracas. The child also jumped on a paper shredder and tried to break a glass frame, the police report states. The school called police. When an officer tried to calm the child in the principal’s office, she resisted, police say. She “was restrained by placing her hands behind her back and handcuffed,” a police report states.

A juvenile complaint was filed, accusing the girl of simple battery and damage to property. The police department’s policy is to handcuff people when they are taken to the police station, regardless of their age, interim Police Chief Dray Swicord said. “The reason we handcuff detainees is for the safety of themselves as well as the officer,” he said Tuesday.

The girl’s aunt, Candace Ruff, went with the child’s mother to pick her up from the police station. She said Salecia had been in a holding cell and complained about the handcuffs. “She said they were really tight. She said they really hurt her wrists,” Ruff said. “She was so shaken up when we went there to pick her up.”

The police chief said the girl was taken to the police department’s squad room, not a holding cell, and officers there tried to calm her and gave her a Coke.

The girl was suspended and can’t return to school until August, her mother, Constance Ruff, told WMAZ-TV, which first reported the story.

“We would not like to see this happen to another child, because it’s horrifying. It’s devastating,” her aunt told The Associated Press.

Here is the original post from Monday:

A few folks sent me links to this news story out of Milledgeville where an officer handcuffed a kindergartner for what police said were safety concerns about the child’s out-of-control behavior.

The readers who sent me the link to this story disapprove of the strong police response, insisting there are better ways to contain and calm a hysterical 6-year-old than clamping handcuffs on her. Afterward, the child was charged with simple assault and damage to property.

I read the comments posted to the WMAZ-TV site, and local respondents split over whether this was an overreaction. I expect we will hear more about this story and a more detailed police response.

From 13WMAZ:

According to the police report, a kindergartner was crying in the principal’s office at Creekside Elementary before police arrived Friday. The report says when the officer tried to calm the child, she resisted and was cuffed.

The little girl is accused of tearing items off the walls and throwing furniture.  The report mentions the girl knocked over a shelf that injured the principal. Police say they tried to contact her mother but weren’t able to reach her.  They took the child to the police station where she was charged with simple assault and damage to property. Because of her age, she will not have to go to court and will not be sentenced.

Her mother, Constance Ruff. says her daughter was suspended and cannot return to school until August. “She has mood swings some days, which all of us had mood swings some days. I guess that was just one of her bad days that day,” said Constance Ruff.

“A 6-year-old in kindergarten. They don’t have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child,” said Earnest Johnson, Salecia’s father.

“She might have misbehaved, but I don’t think she misbehaved to the point where she should have been handcuffed and taken downtown to the police department,” said her aunt, Candace Ruff.  “Call the police? Is that the first step? Or is there any other kind of intervention that can be taken to help that child?”

WMAZ spoke with other police and sheriff’s departments.  None of them could remember handcuffing a child that young.  They say the use of handcuffs would be at the officer’s discretion and based on whether the child is a threat to herself or others.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

499 comments Add your comment

Once Again

April 16th, 2012
6:15 pm

There is always a better response. This is just another example of what a police state america has become. And people wonder how Nazi Germany managed to get so bad. THIS IS HOW,

Not Her Parent

April 16th, 2012
6:21 pm

If she were my child, it would be a good thing that she couldn’t return to school until August 13th. That would be about the time frame where she could sit again.

In reality, when a six year old behaves that way, it’s completely the parent’s fault. Behavior that extreme develops over time…. and somebody let it happen.


April 16th, 2012
6:22 pm

Utterly damn absurd. Does no one have any common sense any more?

My father was a school principal who had a very effective “board of education” with which he meted out swift, sure correction without calling police or involving any expensive, overly intrusive bureaucracy. All the teachers had bolo paddles for immediately dealing with minor infractions. Those who were sent to the principal for less minor behavioral issues got a taste of the larger paddle with holes drilled in it. At my father’s funeral I referred to the “board of education” and several respectable men in their 70s came to me later to tell me how it had helped straighten them out.

We desperately need a return to common sense, which seems totally lacking in this stupid incident.

Uncle Ruckus

April 16th, 2012
6:23 pm

Couldn’t someone get a BELT??

Middle Grades Math Teacher

April 16th, 2012
6:24 pm

None of us were there, so none of us can say. But I CAN say this: I have been in a situation where a child has been out of control and he is a danger to the teacher and, more importantly, other students. When you have been in a situation where you are trying to get terrified children away from a child who is on a rampage, you know that sometimes all the calming techniques in the world are insufficient. Children, teachers, administrators, do not need to tolerate being injured by a child’s actions.

Once again

April 16th, 2012
6:27 pm

Stop invoking Nazi Germany every time something you disagree with appears. Atrocities from the Nazis would have involved crematories. This is a child being inconvenienced for a couple hours.


April 16th, 2012
6:30 pm

The grown ups at school can’t touch an out of control without being sued. Yup, she injured an adult, so handcuffs work.

Old timer

April 16th, 2012
6:30 pm

My husband had to restrain an out of control second grader, that hurt his teacher. Three teacher and the AP could not stop him as he came at people with a chair. I am sorry, but until you have seen this kind of behavior….. Do not judge….
I also had a sixth grader who would throw computers, desks…we just left the room and let him tear it up…then his mom had to pay. He also bit my assistant teacher. Again….walk a mile in there shoes. Then thak God your own are nicer.

Mike S

April 16th, 2012
6:30 pm

Once Again- are you off your meds again?

Good Job, Officer!

April 16th, 2012
6:30 pm

What would the parents be saying if the principal or teacher had tried to restrain the child? Then the parents scream and cry abuse and inappropriate touching. Teachers/Administrators are d*mned if they do, d*mned if they don’t. If you have to involve the police to control the child and to make sure all rules are followed and the school isn’t setting itself up to be sued…then so be it. Hopefully this child’s run-in with the law will be his or her last, and maybe the parents will learn to discipline at home!


April 16th, 2012
6:32 pm

I whole-heartedly agree with the Middle Grades Math Teacher! I quit teaching in the middle of this year because I feared for my safety after being injured and having to endure students with ankle monitors. One student was handcuffed and taken away during afternoon carpool, but returned to school after a brief absence.


April 16th, 2012
6:35 pm

Handcuffs seem a little extreme for a kindergartner, but if she was trashing the place and endangering herself and others then they would have needed to restrain her somehow.

Really, I think the parents should be ashamed that their kid would behave in such a way. Remember Veruca Salt?


April 16th, 2012
6:36 pm

Based on the facts in the story, the child clearly needed to be restrained.


April 16th, 2012
6:39 pm

How else should a police officer restrain a clearly out-of-control child? If the child was truly mistreated I also would be up-in-arms. That simply doesn’t seem to be the case here. We don’t really have enough info, but based on what is being reported, this child needed both to be restrained and to learn a lesson about respect for authority. Nazi-state based on this??? You are kidding… There are definitely some cases where law enforcement had stepped past the powers given to them – this doesn’t seem to be one of those cases.

Good Job, Officer!

April 16th, 2012
6:41 pm

Watch the video – http://milledgeville.13wmaz.com/

The parents don’t seem like they are doing much parenting. “She has good days and bad days. This was just a bad day.” Seriously?? If you don’t want your child handcuffed, then I have an alternative suggestion for you – be a parent, teach your child discipline at home, and don’t expect the teachers to parent your child.


April 16th, 2012
6:42 pm

Why is the child’s name published? Does the AJC now identify juveniles?

Also, if the child was out of control, how did the officer gain the upper hand? Mace, knee to the back, other? Is it police procedure to carry cuffs sized for kids?


April 16th, 2012
6:45 pm

Milledgeville PD? What’s the surprise?

Young Timer

April 16th, 2012
6:46 pm

If a police officer cannot restrain a 6 year old GIRL without handcuffs, then he doesn’t need to be a police officer. If school employees find themselves not being able to control a 6 year old GIRL and then subsequently getting hurt by said CHILD….then they are unfit for the job. I have worked in Youth treatment centers across America and I have never encountered a six year old GIRL that I could not restrain (without handcuffs).

If police officers and school employees are going to handle young children in this manner, they are truly unfit for their jobs.


April 16th, 2012
6:46 pm

Hopefully being handcuffed, the fear of God, or a higher authority than herself if you will, was instilled in this child. Maybe she will think twice before acting out in this particular way. I think that this is a sad story but it sounds like normal discipline was not working and more drastic steps were needed to subdue the child. IMO perhaps this was the best way to handle the situation.

sally mathis

April 16th, 2012
6:49 pm

cuff that little monster for everyone’s safety.


April 16th, 2012
6:50 pm

It is so embarrassing to be from Georgia.


April 16th, 2012
6:51 pm

Fed up with the number of out of control children and their “parents” who are just enablers.

bootney farnsworth

April 16th, 2012
6:52 pm

if the child was a danger to itself or others, restrain away.
I get the distinct feeling there is more to the story than reported


April 16th, 2012
6:53 pm

A better response would be a swift kick to whiner mom’s hindquarters.

If you pause the WMAZ video and read the written report the girl has previously run away from the school and the resource officers had to go retrieve her. This meltdown included running down the hallways shrieking, jumping on the paper shredder and biting the doorknob. (Seriously.) That’s cray-zee with a capital C.


April 16th, 2012
6:55 pm

Hey “Once Again” I’m pretty sure you probably weren’t even alive when Nazi Germany was around. Your just another liberal tool that will see a police officer give someone their last dime and you’d be against that too. Maybe the parents of the out of control child should be held accountable for once. Society has all these people trained that its never your fault or responsibility to teach your children right from wrong. At 5 years old I loved police and fire fighters and would have been in awe if they came into my class room to talk to me. People need to learn how to and teach their children respect. Respect the police, your teacher, and any adult. Nazi Germany? You’re a complete moron. You burned up to many brain cells smoking pot.

A mom

April 16th, 2012
6:56 pm

I’m with Curious….Why is the AJC publishing the child’s name? Even if it is online somewhere else, please use some journalistic integrity.


April 16th, 2012
6:57 pm

What else would you use? Rope? Hands? Both of them could easily do more damage than cuffs. Then again back when they could just a big wooden paddle this crap wasn’t necessary.


April 16th, 2012
7:02 pm

Sad story, but the response was appropriate. Here is another good example of “Let’s blame the school” for our out of control child’s behavior.


April 16th, 2012
7:03 pm

If some of you could see the things that I have seen kindergarten and first grade students do, you’d know that the answer is no! These days, threatening the kids that you will call the police is the only thing to get them to behave.

Hillbilly D

April 16th, 2012
7:06 pm

Then again back when they could just a big wooden paddle this crap wasn’t necessary.

Worked in my day.


April 16th, 2012
7:07 pm

There are ways to restrain and calm without handcuffing. Sounds like the policeman just lost his patience. This IS a kindergartner, not a middle or HS student. And we are talking about a policeman, not a 4 ft. 10 90 lb teacher.

@Jessica, I’m sure the parents are embarrassed, but we don’t know what issues this child may have, so judging them is inappropriate. Maybe it was just a temper tantrum, but it sounds pretty extreme for that.


April 16th, 2012
7:11 pm



April 16th, 2012
7:13 pm

@aqua girl and others
From the description, this child likely does have serious issues. Talk of whacking the child or the parents sounds like none of you have any clue about special needs children.

The child needs help, not clueless policemen or message board posters.


April 16th, 2012
7:14 pm

Sorry, but it’s true: even very young children can require restraint sometimes. I was knocked over by an 8-yr old once, and bitten by a tiny, younger child who was out of control. If a policeman was a. called to the scene, then b. he/she likely saw that the child needed restraint. What is so inhumane about handcuffing? It is not painful, and assists/encourages an out-of-control person, even a little one, to calm down.

I am with this police officer’s judgement and repeat that handcuffs are humane and do not inflict injury or pain.


April 16th, 2012
7:14 pm

As a retired teacher and principal of an elementary school, I have have seen many, many out of control kids. There is no question that this child needed to be restrained, but I have never dealt with a child that I would condone handcuffing. There are more appropriate and accepted ways to restrain young children. I wonder if this child should be in a class or school for emotionally disturbed children. I question if she belongs in a regular public school. Apparently she was a danger to herself and others and probably needs some kind of special education placement.


April 16th, 2012
7:18 pm

Six year olds can get out of control and create dangerous situations BUT teachers & school personnel should be trained on various methods to deal with most of these kind of situations. It would seem this child (and family) may be in need of intervention services to provide coping methods. They should be available under programs associated with school related Emotional & Behavior Disorders classes. Did police use flex-cuffs?
Do metal handcuffs even ratchet small enough to secure a six year old?


April 16th, 2012
7:19 pm

This child needs self discipline, NOT help. Out of control children are a danger to everyone. Until you have seen this happen do not judge. This behavior is becoming common in the schools. And parents in denial are the real problem. Discipline your child, or expect others to restrin tghem so they do not hurt others or themselves. Good for the policeman. No one should have to put up with this.


April 16th, 2012
7:20 pm

The child is getting an extra early start on her criminal record!!!….it was gonna happen anyways.


April 16th, 2012
7:21 pm

What, no taser?

James Crow

April 16th, 2012
7:23 pm

Age should not be a discussion in this matter. An “out of control” person who is a danger to others needs to be dealt with no matter what their age.

This tantrum was most likely learned behavior from the Mother. We as a society need to stop bowing to ill-mannered people. We need judges who will toss the inevitable lawsuits filed by these miscreants.

Helpme Helpyou

April 16th, 2012
7:24 pm

I cannot believe some of the comments compare our repeat our police to nazis. What is an officer suppose to do? It appears the child was out of control and needed to be clamed down. I see nothing wrong with handcuffs as long as they were properly applied. Would it had been better if the police stood back and told the already injured principal, “Looks like you got a problem, buddy. Think I’ll just go and get me a coffee and a jelly donut.”


April 16th, 2012
7:25 pm

The police did the same thing here that they would do with ANY OTHER psychiatric patient who was out of control. There are many children in mental hospitals.

If the reason your question is “was there a better response,” then, well, when teachers are allowed to use better approaches than “hands off,” then well, maybe the only “better” response might be a straightjacket or green (padded) room. Clearly there are psychiatric issues here; no one fails to see this. But intimating that it is the fault of either the school, which is bound by current law, or the police, which is also bound by law, is just stirring the pot.

Either we allow psychiatric interventions in schools such as green/quiet rooms, or we let the police do what they would do with any other person, [mentally ill, drunk, anger issues, PCP, etc.] who is out of control, and a “danger to self or other.”

Size really doesn’t matter when the potential for injury to others is there.


April 16th, 2012
7:27 pm

I have been in the school system for 26 years and I have seen a great deal of children out of control. Sometimes you wonder what you are to do with these children. They either have anger problems or some emotional problems. When dealing with this type of child you have to protect yourself and others. I believe most of their problems stem from home and we can’t control their home life. I totally agree with restraining them. Way to go Milledgeville !

Maureen Downey

April 16th, 2012
7:33 pm

@A mom, I debated the deleting the name, which has already been reported, likely because of the mother’s willingness to go on the record and talk about incident. The child’s name would not have come from the school system. I thought about that decision again after reading your comment and removed both the child’s and mother’s name.



April 16th, 2012
7:34 pm

Students with these extreme behavior problems do not belong in a regular classroom, but then with her being in kindergarten, the school system would not have had time to go through all the paperwork necessary to put her elsewhere. An investigation of her parent(s) and home life should begin immediately. Do what is necessary to keep these students from hurting anyone and destroying property no matter the age.


April 16th, 2012
7:36 pm

The sad part of this story is that the kid learned the distructive behavior at home. Odds are she came from a one-parent home.


April 16th, 2012
7:39 pm

The police did the parents a favor. Someone needs to teach that child boundaries.

Who Cares?

April 16th, 2012
7:41 pm

Proverbs 13:24.

Archie@Arkham Asylum

April 16th, 2012
7:44 pm

I know this is politically incorrect but kids who act out this violently need to be in a special school for students with emotional-behavioral disorders. It sounds like this student should be on a Behavior Intervention Plan ( BIP) at the very least. If this student is put in special education and gets an IEP, they cannot be expelled unless it is proven that their behavior (even if it is dangerous) is not “a manifestation of their disability.” For a student whose behavior is hazardous to themselves or others, a special school might indeed be the “Least Restrictive Envioronment.”


April 16th, 2012
7:45 pm

The story is a little vague, but if it was only one officer that responded, then she had no way to restrain the child while transporting her to the station. Not to mention that she could be sued if any marks were left by trying to physically restrain the child. I agree that this is a pretty obvious case of spoiling the child by sparing the rod.