A nine-year-old Black student with special needs in Walpole, Massachusetts was forcibly handcuffed by school resource officers while having a mental health crisis in class, lawyers for his family allege.
According to the lawyers, Walpole Public Schools failed to uphold its policy and the student's individualized education plan when staffers called an SRO amid his mental health crisis earlier this year, per WBUR. The nine-year-old boy has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress, and learning delays, lawyers said.
"We see white children being given the benefit of the doubt and treated like children, whereas this Black child was treated like a criminal," Attorney Erika Richmond said.
The incident unfolded in January when the boy had a tantrum in the classroom. Instead of receiving positive reinforcement to help regulate his behavior, an SRO was called in. The officer called in more officers who forcibly handcuffed the nine-year-old, according to lawyers. The boy was restrained by his arms and legs and later taken to a local hospital where he was kept in the adult wing for hours.
Walpole Public Schools superintendent Bridget Gough declined to comment on the specific incident but said in a statement: "Walpole schools are committed to the safety and education of all of our students, regardless of race or other protected characteristics."
Richmond alleges that school staff often said the boy was "big for his age" or "stronger than he looks," which she cites as evidence of racial bias.
"We want reforms," Richmond said. "We want an apology. We want them to take responsibility for what they did. We want to have a conversation with them."