February 13 2010

Six-Year-Old Girl Handcuffed And Sent To Mental Institution For Tantrums

It seems that handcuffing school children has become the new favorite method for getting problems under control.

Haley Shalansky, a six-year-old first grader in Port St. Lucie, Fla. was handcuffed at Parkway Elementary on Fed. 3rd after throwing a tantrum. Because she only weight 37 lbs, both of her wrists were put into the same cuff, causing bruising.  According to a report on WPBF, the following day the girl threw another tantrum and reportedly hit the school principal who is eight months pregnant.  At that point the young girl was removed from school and taken to New Horizons mental health facility to be committed.

Reading over the two sides of the story, they differ greatly, but I think the only thing they do agree on is that the girl does have behavioral issues.  That being said, she needed to be handcuffed?  She needed to be “committed”?  They couldn’t have called her parents and simply told them to pick her up?  The school says that they have attempted multiple times to arrange meetings with the parents regarding Hayley’s behavior, but the parents have failed to show up for any of them.  Okay, fine, problem there, but that doesn’t excuse the seeming extreme measures the school took in the situations.

According to TCPalm, the parents, Kathy Franklin and Mickey Shalansky, have a history of problems with the school district, and were even arrested last year for failure to appear in truancy court when a nine-year-old daughter missed 17 days of school without doctor’s notes.  It doesn’t sound like these two are going to win any parenting awards, I get that, but simply going by the facts, the school and authorities mis-handled this situation.

The sheriff’s department claims that they handcuffed the girl to keep her from harming herself, but that still doesn’t seem like something that falls under their purview.  Why wasn’t child protective services called?  You leap immediately from tantrums to a mental institution?

I called my 89-year-old grandmother who is a retired school teacher.  She taught in inner city Phoenix and her class was made up exclusively of the students the school felt were “lost causes”, she dealt with weapons, tantrums and every other scenario you can think of under the sun, and even she thought this situation was handled incorrectly.  Her biggest issue was the handcuffing of the girl, “Her fight-or-flight instinct would have kicked in and she would have ended up harming herself even worse due to just her instincts taking over.”  I asked her if she would have ever had a child handcuffed for throwing a tantrum to which she replied, “Sean, I didn’t have them handcuffed for weapons, tantrums you just ignore.”

My grandmother is what you call “a tough cookie.”

This is the second case of a student being handcuffed in as many weeks.  The other case happened in Queens, NY where Alexa Gonzalez was taken away in handcuffs for doodling on a desk in erasable marker.  What is happening in our public schools?  When did handcuffing a student become a common practice for situations that would have previously called for detentions or just speaking to a mental health worker?  By today’s standards I’m not sure what would have happened to me in school.  I was well-known to school officials for my lack of respect and desire to question their authority.  True, I never threw things or damaged school property, but I probably would have been hauled off in handcuffs at some point.

Have schools lost so much control that they now have to rule by intimidation and fear of retribution?  Something is wrong in our schools, folks, and it isn’t the kids.

Thanks to Jo from Jo’s Cafe for bringing this story to my attention.

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