ACLU: Kentucky sheriff's office agrees to settlement in school handcuffing case

Posted at 9:34 AM, Nov 05, 2018

COVINGTON, Kentucky — The Kenton County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Office agreed to a $337,000 settlement with the families of two elementary students handcuffed by school resource officers in 2014, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The children were handcuffed above the elbow behind their backs for misbehavior which the Children’s Law Center said was related to disabilities. The Children’s Law Center and ACLU filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office in 2015 over the incidents.

The ACLU claimed the handcuffings were in violation of the students’ rights. The Covington students -- a boy and a girl -- both had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, histories of trauma and other disabilities, according to the lawsuit.

Video of a boy handcuffed and squirming in a chair even got the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, which also investigated the school district’s disciplinary practices after the lawsuit was filed. Although the independent investigation did not find the district guilty of wrongdoing, the Department of Justice said that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to school resource officers, and school policies should dissuade the "school-to-prison pipeline" created by criminalizing misbehavior.

In 2017, Covington Independent Public Schools agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and a new set of guidelines for disciplining children with disabilities.

Later that year, a federal judge found that it was unconstitutional for school resource officers to handcuff the children.

According to the ACLU, “both children had repeated nightmares, started bed-wetting, and would not let their mothers out of their sight,” after the handcuffings.

WCPO televisions station in Cincinnati reached out to the Kenton County Sheriff’s Office for comment but has not heard back.