About six months ago, the handcuffing of a five-year-old girl at Fairmount Park Elementary by St. Petersburg police made headlines. In that case, the young girl threw items, destroyed papers and swung at school officials who tried to approach her.
Some said the police abused their powers by detaining a small child with handcuffs. As a result of that criticism, department policy was changed, involving how police officers handle such situations in the future.
The St. Petersburg Times reported that on Sept.17, St. Petersburg police were called at 4:20 p.m. to the same elementary school after an eight-year-old became violent. The school officer had gone for the day and the officer who arrived was forced to stand by and watch idly as the child destroyed a classroom.
The officer’s supervisor supported his inaction, saying there was nothing to do according to the new rules. The officer had to wait for the girl’s parents to arrive.
This incident exposed a gray area of after-school activities that the new policy does not cover.
The bottom line is that someone needs to act as an authority figure for these children.
They need to learn that they cannot act irrationally and violently, and that if they do, someone will step in to control them. If they learn as children that they can act as they please and no one can stop them, then they will be in for a rude awakening as adults.
Did authorities act correctly in their handling of the five-year old’s case?
Maybe not, because it seems that teachers could somehow have restrained the child without calling in the police. But the teachers’ and faculty’s ability to control and discipline children has been so curtailed in recent years that many are already afraid to act in these situations. If we will not allow faculty latitude in dealing with problem children, then we must allow police to handle the situation.
Police did not abuse the child in any way, just restricted the use of her hands so that she could not continue her temper tantrum. As a child, when I acted out, I had my butt torn up. I learned from that that I could not misbehave past a certain point without being reprimanded. In the incident with the eight-year-old, 60 other students were ushered outside while the girl destroyed the room. We cannot allow a child to hold an entire school hostage.
As a society, we cannot set these kids up to fail in our justice system by not teaching them discipline in their youth. It is not an accurate portrayal of what the real world is like, and eventually all of us will have to pay for it.
Mackenzie Turberville is a senior newspaper journalism student from Lake City, Fla. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.