A five year-old kindergartener’s hands and feet were hand-cuffed with zip ties by a Stockton, California police officer who then arrested the five year-old ADHD sufferer for battery on an officer for kicking the officer in the knee. Lieutenant Frank Gordo was apparently victimized by five year-old Michael Davis. As an American, it is embarrassing to read articles like this November 2011 KCRA news article http://www.kcra.com/r/29847063/detail.html. As is unfortunately typical of articles like this, this article only hints at the real story and raises more questions than it answers.
Why were the five year-old’s parents not told for two weeks that their son was handcuffed with zip ties?
Why weren’t the parents called as soon as the decision to transport this child to a psychiatric hospital was made? In 2012, do American parents retain any rights to act on behalf of their children or can the State take a minor child into custody at will in much the same way the State can take possession of your dog or cat?
Why did this elementary school principal feel it necessary to call the police in the first place? Did both he and the classroom teacher lack the skills necessary to deal with a five year-old boy who suffers from ADHD? If so, what are they doing working with children?
Bringing in a police officer to intimidate, frighten, traumatize and subdue by physical force a five year-old who suffers from ADHD shocks the conscience of anyone who has a clue about child development and age appropriate child discipline.
The school principal stated that he calls in the police as a way of scaring children into behaving. There are better, time-tested methods for disciplining elementary school children.
While using the threat of death (real or perceived), imprisonment or physical violence against a five-year old who refuses to conform and comply with authority may produce the desired conforming behavior, these forms of coercion typically also produce in children a profound disrespect for authority who frequently show resultant delays in normal child development.
Children traumatized by overwhelming feelings of helplessness and powerlessness oftentimes do not do well academically or socially. Displays of overwhelming force intended to crush young psyches into submission leave children with deep seated feelings that the world is not safe, that no one will protect them (least of all the police and people in positions of trust and authority), and that are unwanted because they are bad.
The article quotes Dr. Shannon Cannon, UC Davis Professor of Education, who politely stated: “I have been around young children that, when they can’t express themselves, and don’t feel they’re being heard . . . they really need to make a loud statement in some way and it’s often a very physical statement.” That’s right: if you kick a dog often enough, hard enough and long enough, eventually he will bite you. Michael Davis needed attention. When no one would give him the positive attention he craved, he resorted to seeking negative attention, which makes Michael a normal, smart boy.
Incredibly, the guilt of Michael’s teacher, principal and school district staff only came to light after Michael was dehumanized and, essentially, tortured. The school knew this five year-old suffered from ADHD and that his ADHD was a major contributor his behavioral problems, yet the school district repeatedly refused to give Michael the federally mandated special accommodations to which he and all special needs children are entitled.
As a result, taxpayers were forced to foot the bill when, according to the article, Michael was “forced” to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at a local hospital. The reader is not told if Michael’s psychiatric evaluation was performed voluntarily or if it was performed involuntarily as part of his false arrest and subsequent mandatory admission to a psychiatric hospital.
Who won this “battle of the wills”? Nobody. The five year-old lost. His parents, by failing to sue the school district, also failed to honor their duty to society to ensure this never happens again to any child in the U.S. Law enforcement suffered blows to its duty to “Protect and Serve” and the public trust. Taxpayers ended up paying a premium to have Michael Davis evaluated at a hospital rather than at school. Taxpayers also had to foot the court costs associated with the District Attorney filing wrongful charges against Michael Davis. This in turn denied access to people who desperately need access to the justice system. Taxpayers are also saddled with the salaries and pensions of multiple school district employees who participated in this fiasco. The list of losers goes on, but the biggest loser in this debacle is Liberty and the rule of law.
There are larger legal, political and social issues at play here. The court dismissed the charges brought against Michael. It is tragic that, of all of the governmental players involved, only the court showed proper regard for the rule of law. When will America’s law enforcement community regain its understanding that it only has discretion to follow the law and that it must stop confusing the power to act with the right to act?
Ironically, Lt. Gordo most likely succeeded in reinforcing in this five year-old ADHD boy the exact attitudes, beliefs and behaviors (e.g., disrespect for authority) Lt. Gordo was summoned to Michael’s school to discourage.