• Police pepper spray child at school

    Date: 05.20.11 | by Judge Tom.

    There is a difference between corporal punishment at school and using physical restraint with a student who presents a danger to others. Most states have banned swats and other forms of physical discipline by educators. But breaking up a fight or pacifying an out-of-control student is a common occurrence. All states authorize intervention by staff and faculty to prevent personal injury or property damage.

    Consider the case of 8-year old Aidan Elliott. He is in a program for children with behavior problems at Glennon Heights Elementary School in Colorado. The police had been called to the school on two previous occasions and succeeded in calming him down.

    In February, 2011, they were again called to the school. Aidan had thrown a TV and chairs in his classroom. He was trying to use a cart to break through a door where the teacher and classmates fled for safety. When the police arrived, Aidan was holding a foot-long piece of wood trim and a cardboard box in his other hand. “Come get me, f__kers” he yelled. When they failed at calming the child down, the police squirted Aidan with pepper spray. He deflected it with the cardboard, but a second squirt sent him to the floor.

    Photo by US ACE Public Affairs (Flickr)

    Aidan’s mother was called to the school. When Aidan told her he had been hit with pepper spray, she reportedly said “Well, you probably deserved it.” However, within a short time, Aidan and his mother were on TV claiming the police action was excessive. The officers commented that either they or Aidan could have been seriously injured if they had resorted to a hands-on approach.

    Do you think the police were wrong in using pepper spray in this situation? Why or why not? Since they knew Aidan from earlier encounters, didn’t they know his capability to act out further and injure someone? Did the police show restraint in not using a Taser-gun to stop him?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    1 Comment subscribe to these comments.

    • Alyssa Miller
      Tue, 14 Jun 2011 at 07:06

      My first reaction? WHY WOULD YOU USE THAT ON AN EIGHT YEAR OLD?! But when I read the article- sure, it sucked, but he was trying to attack other kids. The only other option would’ve been to shove him to the floor and grapple with him, which really could’ve gotten someone hurt. If you ever had to restrain a younger cousin/sibling you know what I mean when I say that eight year olds really can put up a fight. The chemicals will wash off. They didn’t tase him or shoot him, and no one got seriously hurt.