A Toronto mother is considering legal action after her nine-year-old son with special needs was handcuffed by police at a daycare centre near Dufferin and Eglinton.
Linda Dastous received a phone call from staff at the Fairbank Memorial Day Care Centre on July 28, saying that her son, Austin, was out of control.
She left work and headed to the centre, finding it strange when she noticed several police cruisers out front.
Then she saw her son. It’s an image that’s etched in her mind.
“He was white as a ghost, his eyes were bloodshot red, his pupils were dilated because he was terrified…I literally almost fainted,” she told CityNews.
Moments earlier, Austin, who has Asperger syndrome, had been handcuffed by police after the daycare called 911, saying he posed a danger to himself and others.
Austin also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), which can include frequent outbursts and temper tantrums.
The trouble started when Austin became upset that other children were teasing him in the lunchroom.
“I was mad because the kids were calling me all bad names,” he explained.
Staff moved Austin into an empty classroom, but said his behaviour became increasingly more unruly as he barricaded himself in the room with desks and chairs and threw items like paint.
Not long after, police arrived.
“They busted through the door with their shoulders,” Austin recalled. “And then they said ‘get on the ground,’ so I got on the ground. Two cops grabbed my arms and then he took the cuffs and put them on me.”
The cuffs were removed moments later after Austin spoke to the police crisis intervention team.
Austin now becomes frightened when he sees the police.
“I still feel scared of the police and whenever I see a cop car I hold my mom’s hand,” he notes.
In the meantime, Austin’s mother has been told her son can’t return to Fairbank or any other daycares run by the Learning Enrichment Foundation (LEF).
“LEF is denying Austin from any of their daycare centres as they cannot meet his special needs, even with special resources,” she explained.
“I don’t even know how to approach these people now, I just feel like they just keep neglecting my son’s rights.”
The daycare says calling the police was the right move under the circumstances.
“Sometimes things can escalate to a point where if you’re concerned about the safety of a child then the appropriate thing to do is to make a 911 call,” said Peter Frampton, Executive Director, Learning Enrichment Foundation.
Police also defend their decision to cuff Austin.
“Using the handcuffs worked. He did calm down, and he has no injuries from that,” said P.C. Victor Kwong. “In this case the officers did the right thing by restraining him.”
Austin may not have been physically injured, but his mother says the psychological damage will last a lifetime.
“My son is traumatized, I’m traumatized, I’m devastated,” she said. “It’s something my son is never ever going to forget.”