A mother says she’s devastated after her six-year-old daughter was handcuffed by two Peel police officers inside her school. But the force is defending the move, saying it was done to protect the child from self harm.
“No six-year-old little girl deserves that,” the child’s mother said in an exclusive interview with CityNews. “I’m ashamed for her, I tell her everyday it wasn’t her fault, she’s a good kid”
The incident happened at a Mississauga school in late September. The mother – whose name we are not revealing in order to protect the child’s identity – says her daughter has had problems at the school ever since she started junior kindergarten.
To protect the child’s identity, CityNews is not naming the school.
Letters of suspension from the school describe a child who “punched a staff member” and “assaulted students in the class by kicking, hitting and pulling their arms.” Her mother says her daughter has never exhibited any of that behaviour outside of school.
Since the age of four the child has been suspended four times, with police being called twice before the latest incident when she was handcuffed.
Peel police say officers tried de-escalation techniques with the little girl and handcuffed her because she was banging her head and they feared for her safety.
“The officers arrived on scene and found a young girl who was acting extremely violent – punching, hitting, biting, spitting. Their first priority is her safety,” said Peel police spokesperson Sgt. Josh Colley.
CityNews asked how long officers tried de-escalation before handcuffing the child and how long the cuffs were on, but have yet to recieve an answer.
Police did say the child was handcuffed at the ankles first and then the wrists.
When asked why the child could not have been left in the class with a door closed to calm her down, Colley noted the “potential weapons” available in the classroom that could be used to cause harm, such as desks and book cases.
The child’s father died when she was six months old. Her mother started having health problems as she began junior kindergarten, eventually being diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. She says a social worker told her that her daughter may have been experiencing separation anxiety. Her mother also wonders if bullying at the school triggered the behavioural issues.
The mother’s lawyers believe anti-black racism is the underlying cause of the troubles.
“There’s never, ever a situation where a six-year-old should be handcuffed, never,” said Danardo Jones.
“We see anti-black racism, we see it in child welfare, we see it in the educational system, we see it in the criminal justice system, we see it all over. And what’s particularly jarring to our moral conscience right now is that this level of anti-black racism is moving from something that impacts teenagers and adults right down to a little black girl, a little black female girl and that’s extremely jarring,” lawyer Lavinia Latham added.
A human rights complaint on behalf of the little girl has been filed.
“The police have to be held accountable for their behaviour,” said the child’s mother. “One of the teachers said to me ‘they’re the police. We didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t intervene.'”
At the request of the mother, the child was moved to a new school six weeks ago. She says the old school would call every day or every other day to tell her her daughter was in trouble. The new school hasn’t called once.