San Antonio, TX — When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like nails—even 7-year-old boys with autism. A disturbing video was taken this week showing just how true this statement is as a tiny child was dragged from school in handcuffs by two police officers.
The terrifying incident unfolded Monday at Hirsch Elementary School in San Antonio. The boy's mother, Maria Herrera Arias said there was absolutely no reason to treat her son in such a brutal manner.
"They're treating him like a criminal, and he's not,” Arias said. “This is a 7-year-old kid."
Arias explained to NEWS 4 that her son has been diagnosed with autism and a mood disorder since age 5.
"Maybe something that's not a big deal to everyone else, is a big deal to him,” Arias said. “He doesn't understand how to calm himself down from that."
It is well known that children with autism do not like being grabbed or touched, as even a slight touch can cause great anxiety, discomfort, and even physical pain due to their disability. Clearly, these officers and the school did not understand this at all.
According to Arias, her son had an outburst in class on Monday over a disagreement about a computer program. Because her son suffers from a mood disorder as well as autism, the situation escalated.
As NEWS 4 reports, the mother said San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) tried calling her and the boy’s father, but misdialed. The cellphone video was taken by the boy’s dad moment later, after he eventually received the message and went to the school. In the video, you can see school district police alongside the young boy in handcuffs, crying.
"No kid should have to be put in handcuffs,” Arias said. “Let alone, a kid that has mental illnesses or disabilities."
In response to the video, the school district released the following statement:
“There are times when children are in crisis, hurting themselves, and need emergency detention – and handcuffing is part of the process, to keep the child safe,” said Leslie Price, a spokesperson from SAISD. “When this happens, they are taken to a hospital for medical attention.”
"This is a trip that could have been avoided,” Arias said. “He didn't have to sit in back of a patrol car, handcuffed like a criminal."
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Indeed, had the school done what schools have done for decades before the police state—like train on how to de-escalate without relying on cops—this situation could have been resolved without handcuffing and dragging a small child from school. Arias agrees.
"There should be more resources within the school that say, hey, there's someone on campuses that deals with children specifically with Autism," Arias said.
As the ACLU notes, the settlement comes as the national debate heats up over whether to boost the number of law enforcement officers in schools. The plaintiffs in this case were small children in need of support and understanding. They needed someone who understood the effects of their disability on their behavior and could help them with appropriate accommodations. Law enforcement does not have those tools. Indeed, the tools they do have — handcuffs, batons, pepper spray, and guns — are particularly inappropriate and harmful in the school environment.
As tragic as this story sounds, it is sadly not an isolated one. Young children with disabilities often find themselves on the receiving end of police state violence while attending public school.
Colton Granito, an 8-year-old boy with autism, threw a tantrum during class. Instead of following the boy's IEP plan, police were called. Colton was handcuffed, transported to jail, and forced to sit in a cell for hours wearing a straight jacket. He was subsequently charged with assault and sentenced to probation.
The photo below is of a 10-year-old child handcuffed, laid out on the back of a police cruiser. The boy’s name is Ryan, and he has autism. He misbehaved at school and was also arrested and treated like a criminal.
In September of 2014, we reported on body cam footage showing a 9-year-old special needs boy handcuffed as his father pleaded with the officer to release him.
That same month, a highly disturbing video of cops manhandling a 13-year-old autistic child as he screamed for help emerged on Facebook.
And these cases contain only autistic children. If you truly want a glimpse into the horrid effects of the police state on all school children, take a scroll through our archives, at this link.
"The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi