Handcuffed kindergartner story is not going away. Still a lot we don’t know.

The AJC’s Christian Boone spoke today with the parents of the handcuffed Milledgeville kindergartner Salecia Johnson.

As we all expected, this story is shifting to a national stage.

What remains unclear is whether this little girl has had a history of outbursts. The Milledgeville police chief said earlier this week that the principal said Salecia had run away from the school before so we can assume her past behavior played a role in the school’s decision to bring in police. A representative of the family denied that the child had run away from the school.

It remains unclear what strategies the school had in place to deal with Salecia, and whether those strategies were tried before police were called.

Here is an excerpt of the AJC interview:

Salecia was there too, and on her best behavior as she demonstrated for reporters how her hands were cuffed from the back. “It hurted,” she said.

The action was taken after police were called by Creekside Elementary School’s principal, Dianne Popp, to assist with an “unruly juvenile.” According to the incident report, Salecia was “screaming and crying” on the floor when an officer arrived. Popp told the officer she had been struck by a small shelving unit that Salecia had flipped over.

“[Salecia] was observed biting the door knob of the office and jumping on the paper shredder and attempted to break a glass frame above the shredder,” the police report stated. The officer said he attempted to calm Salecia but the girl “pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me,” according to the report. At that time the decision was made to place the 6-year-old in steel handcuffs “for her safety as well as others’ safety in the area.”

Salecia was charged with being an unruly juvenile, simple battery and damage to property. Those charges have since been dismissed because of her age.

“It baffles me how a child can be put in handcuffs and sent to an adult jail for an hour,” said Marcus Coleman, president of NAN’s Atlanta chapter. “You’re telling me they couldn’t find a way to restrain this little child?”

Police said they made six attempts at contacting Salecia’s mother, Constance Ruff, before they took the girl into custody but the Milledgeville woman said she never received the calls,  adding the school could have contacted other family members whose numbers were in their files.

Police finally reached Salecia’s aunt, Candace Ruff, once they arrived at the Baldwin County jail. “I had to make sure someone wasn’t playing a practical joke on me,” she said. She contacted her sister and they went together to collect Salecia at the jail, where she had been placed in a holding room.

Her mother said Salecia has been “traumatized” by her arrest. “I believe my daughter was treated like a criminal,” she said.

The girl was initially expelled for the remainder of the school year, but Creekside officials invited Salecia to return to class on Monday. But her parents have decided to send her to a school outside of Baldwin County.

School administrators have declined comment on the incident. Meanwhile, Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord defended the arrest Tuesday during a brief press conference. “When a person is put in handcuffs it’s for their safety, it’s not a punishment,” Swicord told reporters.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

74 comments Add your comment

tman

April 20th, 2012
7:15 pm

I’m sure the school outside of Baldwin County is thrilled to get her!

Class of '98

April 20th, 2012
7:46 pm

I’m sure this precious little angel never raised her voice or her hands at anyone or anything in her entire life. They pulled this little cherubic darling out of class for no reason, when she was minding her own business and studying, and called the police who brutalized her for no reason at all.

You don’t think her family may be planning a LAWSUIT do you? Nah.

Lee

April 20th, 2012
7:49 pm

To the mom: your child was screaming and crying on the floor, biting a door knob, jumping on a shredder, trying to break a glass frame, and fighting with a police officer. Instead of parading your big, fat butt in front of a tv camera, you might want to see about getting your little girl some help.

Unless they [the parents and child] can pull some new evidence out of a hat, I still gotta side with the officer and principal on this one.

Class of '98

April 20th, 2012
7:50 pm

“You’re telling me they couldn’t find a way to restrain this little child?”

Uh…. it seems to me they DID find a way to restrain this little child.

Digger

April 20th, 2012
7:59 pm

Too bad there is no video. Something tells me this little darling makes the Exorcist movie tame by comparison.

Ashley

April 20th, 2012
8:00 pm

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s the golden rules for a child were…you do not act up in front of company, in church , in the grocery store and most importantly your parents had better not have to come to the school because you were throwing a fit. This was instilled in most children back then, if you were an angel you didn’t have to worry about a sore behind when you sat down. I guess in the 21st century these rules might seem antequated but they worked really well for most 5 and 6 year olds ages ago.

Jack

April 20th, 2012
8:10 pm

“Parents” were mentioned. But I didn’t read the word “father”.

Wayne Kerr

April 20th, 2012
8:19 pm

Shameful how socirty has gotten. The parents should be upset about child acting a fool but they are just looking for payday.

Wayne Kerr

April 20th, 2012
8:21 pm

Jesee and sharpton to thrrescue!

Jack in Cumming

April 20th, 2012
8:23 pm

It hurted Dawg!

Jack in Cumming

April 20th, 2012
8:27 pm

The parents should definitely sue for a billion or two. This girl sounds like she will need years of therapy and a future husband who will be understanding to he lack of physical contact. Hopefully she can get her name trademarked when BET buys the movie rights

Dekalbite

April 20th, 2012
8:27 pm

My daughter went to Kindergarten with two very unruly children. One was physically very aggressive to other children, hitting and pushing and whacking them when they were in line or in his way. Once when the teacher put him in “time out” he just sat there and urinated on his clothes and chair to spite her. The other one slipped out and ran away if the teacher’s back was turned. My daughter said his own parents had an alarm system installed because he did the same to them. One day he slipped out of line on the way to lunch and hit the door running. He ran into LaVista Rd. and was almost hit by a car. With 31 Kindergarten children in her class, I felt sorry for her teacher and for the other students. My daughter did fine because I always made sure of that, but there were a few students who didn’t fare as well, and I can’t help but feel these two children along with 31 in a class had something to do with that. These two children did not belong in a regular education classroom. It sounds like this little girl does not either.

high school teacher

April 20th, 2012
8:32 pm

I thought the mother admitted earlier that she got some phone calls but couldn’t answer because she was out of minutes. Now she is saying that she never got any phone calls?

Jack in Cumming

April 20th, 2012
8:33 pm

First a 17 year old who by the media pictures looks 13 is gunned down in cold blood and now an honor student is handcuffed cause she probably made an A Oma test and the teacher had her cuffed to put her back in her place

Jack in Cumming

April 20th, 2012
8:34 pm

The mom probably got her school number mixed up with the landlords number and did not answer

The Deal

April 20th, 2012
8:36 pm

I have yet to hear a solution other than the handcuffs that would have not involved physical action on the part of the principal, teacher, or anyone else at the school and/or that wouldn’t have placed the child in a situation where she could have hurt herself (in a room by herself, for example). School officials are not allowed to restrain her for fear of a lawsuit, so I’m not sure what they were supposed to do.

Jenifer

April 20th, 2012
8:42 pm

listen to you people. talking about this 6 year old like she’s a criminal. You have lost your damn minds. If someone had put you 6 year old in handcuffs, took her to an adult jail, and charged your child with 3 crimes you would’ve have been parading your asses in front of the tv cameras too. They could have contacted other family members to come and get her or contacted DFACS to help with the situation, but they didn’t. If a police officer could not calm the child down or “handle her” as you say, then he needs to think about changing careers. It’s obvious the girl has issues so stop treating her like she is the damn devil. THIS IS A CHILD!!!

Dekalbite@The Deal

April 20th, 2012
8:54 pm

You are right.

The school did the prudent thing by calling the police. The little girl could have injured herself or others. School personnel are not trained to restrain a child in a regular education classroom, and letting a child run away from school is not an option.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 20th, 2012
8:56 pm

The Deal,

You obviously know “the new deal” about handling unruly kids enrolled in schools overseen by boards of education composed of and advised by wimpy grown-ups.

Atlanta Mom

April 20th, 2012
9:02 pm

Here’s to hoping an hour down at the jail made an impression on the child.

catlady

April 20th, 2012
9:03 pm

The school system is in a no-win situation. No matter what they did, it was the wrong thing.

yes i am worried

April 20th, 2012
9:37 pm

The mother said she didn’t answer her phone because she was out of minutes. I am certain she recognized the phone number and simply choose not to get up and go to the school. Because she knew what was waiting for her.

Said really.

Tonya C.

April 20th, 2012
9:40 pm

Jenifer:

No I wouldn’t have. I would’ve put my energy into getting my child help or in line, whichever was needed. I’d be more than PO’d that she screwed up the school day for other kids. If the family wasn’t so dismissive of the behavior, there may be more sympathy.

bu2

April 20th, 2012
10:16 pm

@The Deal
There are ways to restrain young children w/o harming them or you. You can avoid getting kicked, bitten, scratched or head-butted. If this was a middle schooler it would be an entirely different issue. The policeman was either untrained or impatient. I’m not going to criticize the school as I don’t know what their training or staffing at the time was.

I’d bet the school and police department are probably thrilled there isn’t a video. I suspect the little girl would not be the only one who had lost it. Handcuffs and an assult charge? Certainly the assult charge tells you the police and principal totally took leave of their senses. Can you imagine the principal going in front of a jury with a straight face? Or at least the jury keeping a straight face?

There are a lot of different things that could have caused the behavior. Imagine how all of you who want to beat the child would feel if it turned out this child had a brain tumor? What if it was due to abuse or witnessing violent behavior and then the police throw her in cuffs and in a police car?

bu2

April 20th, 2012
10:27 pm

@Jennifer
I think you are right about 90% of people. The natural reaction is defensive and anger. We aren’t talking about a teenager. Arresting a kindergartner? They didn’t just take her into custody to protect her. They arrested her and charged her with crimes. These people have taken leave of their senses. And apparently the police weren’t even competent in their own jobs. From one of these articles, she was too young to be legally charged with what they tried to charge her with.

From a Teacher

April 20th, 2012
10:30 pm

Some people will never know what that feeling is like to be in a room with an unruly child….not your own child or a relative’s child that you can control how you would like, but another person’s child, you can ask them to stop, use a stern voice but nothing will make the child do right. You threaten to call the parents, but then comes that moment, when the child realizes either the phone number has been disconnected, or the parent will not answer, and the child knows he/she will not have to face consequence. You can call for an administrator, maybe they will come, maybe they are busy some days its a crap shoot.

point being with a history, and the way the girl was acting, I’m sure it was justified. The parent can play the sob story all day long, and the little girl can talk about how much it “hurted”, but this was the right thing to do to send a message

bootney farnsworth

April 20th, 2012
10:37 pm

I agree with Catlady. the system is screwed no matter what they do, don’t do, or don’t want to do.

bootney farnsworth

April 20th, 2012
10:43 pm

@bu

sorry, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.

when a child is running amok to that degree and requires restraint,
there is no way to do restraint without some level of force. force
that will “hurted”.

‘course, if the child wasn’t running amok, there wouldn’t be a need
to restrain the child in the first place.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 20th, 2012
10:45 pm

bus2 “You can avoid getting kicked, bitten, scratched or head-butted.”

Not if you are trying to keep an out of control child from hurting themselves or another child.

“There are ways to restrain young children w/o harming them or you.”

Not without proper training, and not without the parents permission.

“Handcuffs and an assult (sp) charge? Certainly the assult (sp) charge tells you the police and principal totally took leave of their senses.”

During my career, I have been bitten, kicked, punched, and stabbed (with scissors and pencils) by first and second graders. I have been drop kicked from behind, knocked down, strangled with my own lanyard, had my fingers bent so far back they were strained, and been hit over the head with a wooden chair by a first grader. I have had a colleague sent to the hospital after being stabbed in the stomach by a pair of scissors by a 4th grader. I have seen one pregnant kindergarten teacher, rushed to the doctor after being kicked in the stomach by one of her charges, and another pregnant second grade teacher knocked off her feet by student who jumped on her from behind, then jumped up and down on her stomach.

So tell me, who has taken leave of their senses?

Really?

April 20th, 2012
11:31 pm

what about the principal who was stabbed in the heart and killed up in Winder by an elementary child years ago? Bet his widow wishes someone had handcuffed that child.

Really?

April 20th, 2012
11:32 pm

Kid stabbed him with a pencil in his office by the way.

Public HS Teacher

April 20th, 2012
11:35 pm

This is nothing more than the product of today’s parents in general. Today’s parents do not parent. No morals or values taught. No respect is taught. No boundarys are put in place.

Parents today only seem to excel at making excuses for their little monsters and blaming others.

Ah yes – teaching is only getting better and better…..

Public HS Teacher

April 20th, 2012
11:37 pm

Georgia republicans, in an effort to continue their campaign to destroy public schools, are now proposing a State law that requires all 2nd graders to line up and stab their teachers with a pencil in the hand.

Concerned

April 21st, 2012
12:36 am

@Maureen

I haven’t seen anywhere why this little girl was in the principal’s office. Usually kids don’t just end up in the principal’s office for no reason. What had she done?

Sarah

April 21st, 2012
12:59 am

The mom keeps changing her story. Early on she said that she got the phone calls but didn’t have enough minutes. Now she’s saying she didn’t get the phone calls at all. We can now see why her child is such a brat.

I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor teachers having to deal with this kid. My friend is a teacher and she actually has a pretty bad scar where a little angel attacked her with a pair of scissors. I don’t think people realize what kids are like nowadays and what teachers have to put up with.

? Retired teacher

April 21st, 2012
1:56 am

Where were the special education staff, who are trained to restrain unruly students?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 21st, 2012
3:03 am

Too bad “we don’t have the money” for classroom video-audio recorders.

Beverly Fraud

April 21st, 2012
5:00 am

Let’s see; child acts out in the most socially UNacceptable of ways. As a “consequence” she gets absolutely fawned over by the media, her family, and various others.

Yep, that’ll improve her behavior.

Proud Educator

April 21st, 2012
5:07 am

This is why I’m hearing more and more educators planning on leaving the profession. we develop our craft through college and professional development, we learn through our experiences, but yet we’re treated as incompetent. It’s the only profession where everyone else knows more than the actual professionals. Do people think that administrators want this type attention? The saddest part is that there were easier alternatives, like 3 adults physically restraining and injuring the student, or chasing her and letting her hurt another student, who would probably have parents who would file suit due to incompetent handling of the situation; allowing the child to run out of the school; speaking in a firm tone while the student goes berserk; calling the school psychologist to counsel the child while she screamed; sending someone from the school to roam the community searching for her mother; understanding in advance that mom had financial difficulties and allowing DFACS to offer support; allowing the students to leave the classroom and barricading this student in the room; calling local civil right activists and pastors to handle the situation. I’ve been in education for a while. If someone knows a better solution let me know.

Beverly Fraud

April 21st, 2012
5:13 am

“The mother said she didn’t answer her phone because she was out of minutes.”

Ok, the school calls about your child. Your PRECIOUS child. You’re out of minutes and you don’t make the effort to borrow somebody’s phone?

In 2012? With as many cell phones floating around, you can’t find anybody who will let you borrow a phone to see about your CHILD?

Let’s hope the media remembers to ask her this question if she claims to be a “concerned” parent.

Beverly Fraud

April 21st, 2012
5:17 am

“listen to you people. talking about this 6 year old like she’s a criminal”

Yes Jenifer, because she engages in socially UNACCEPTABLE ways. And we advocate a consequence, in the hopes that when she is 26, she won’t be an ACTUAL criminal.

‘Cause neither her mama NOR Al Sharpton will be able to save her then.

Beverly Fraud

April 21st, 2012
6:36 am

“when the child realizes either the phone number has been disconnected, or the parent will not answer, and the child knows he/she will not have to face consequence.”

EXACTLY @From a teacher. The child KNEW there was no consequence. And the mother’s PATHETIC reaction only reinforces that there will be no consequence. What’s mama going to do if she’s TWENTY six and can’t cry “But she’s only a child?”

Well, we’ve seen THAT story play out too, haven’t we? And the response inevitably is, “She was such a nice child growing up. Why did this have to happen?” as if it happened in a vacuum.

Actually it DID happen in a vacuum, in the empty space that should have been filled by a parent parenting, not ENABLING.

William Casey

April 21st, 2012
8:04 am

The underlying problem is that society does not want to admit that defective children even exist.

mountain man

April 21st, 2012
9:02 am

Of coure this discipline problem child did not disrupt the teacher’s time trying to instruct the other students. And you wonder why teachers cheat? They can’t do teaching because they have to deal with incidents like this.

Police don’t carry straightjackets, which is what it seems this little girl needed. Should have called the insane asylum.

mountain man

April 21st, 2012
9:04 am

Jenifer – children that age can literally do MURDER. She acted like a deranged criminal and she was treated like one.

The Supreme Court also made a terrible mistake years ago when they outlawed the execution of anyone under 18.

Dr. John Trotter

April 21st, 2012
9:30 am

Just another child totally out of control. What makes this story so juicy is the racial angle. Race always livens up a story. The various media (including the AJC) love a good juicy story laced in race. These kinds of stories must really spike readership and viewership. Ha! This is yesterday’s story…just one of many children totally out of control in the Georgia schools. Just like Catlady said, the school system and the police were in a no-win situation. Children in this type of rage have to be dealt with, and there’s really nothing that can be done short of physical restraint.

shelley

April 21st, 2012
9:50 am

After watching this story on the news and seeing this child’s mother, I need subtitles to understand what she was saying! Obviously a short bus rider. If she were any type of parent she would have had this child on tv apologizing for her behavior and apologizing to the principal and police officer. The kid said some other kids were “messin” with her. I think I see a jail cell in her future.

The sad part of the story...

April 21st, 2012
11:26 am

The sad part of this story is the fact that this little girl is having her actions defended by her mom and others in there national spotlight. What lesson do you think the 6 yo girl is really learning from this?

The sad part of the story...

April 21st, 2012
11:27 am

*the” national spotlight

bu2

April 21st, 2012
12:06 pm

Bootney, although I usually find your posts entertaining, sorry, you and most of the posters are the ignorant ones (not stupid-just uninformed). I have restrained my own child when out of control and seen the techniques used on children by teachers and social workers. My child has attended special needs schools with kids who have all kinds of issues-emotional issues, aspergers, autism, ADD/ADHD, shaken child syndrome, children who have lost parents, LD children who are in the process of losing a parent to cancer, and sometimes noone has any idea since the kids are being raised by grandparents while the parents are in jail. So I’ve seen and heard tales of runners, kids who have to be carried into the classroom from their car once a week and kids with violent trantrums. I was on a jury with a charge of a father sexually abusing a 6 year old and heard all I ever wanted about the possible impact on behavior. So I’m not a professional on these issues, but unlike most of you, I really do have some idea what I’m talking about. And people who are familiar with the kids can tell when a tantrum is simply “bratty” behavior and when it is something that is mostly beyond their control.

And love teaching, the police have taken leave of their senses. With all that’s going on they charge a 6 year old with assult for throwing a shelf that hit a principal in the leg. And if you had bothered reading my post before reacting, you would have seen that I said I wasn’t criticizing the school (except maybe the principal if she had any part in the assult charge).