Tyeisha Harmon had already informed the school of her son's conditions. She thought they would care for him but she was shocked by their actions.
Every educational institution has the responsibility to provide an environment that is suitable for all its students. Moreover, they need to ensure that their staff is sensitive to the needs of all the children present there. One Florida mother was left devastated after her son's school failed to treat him properly.
According to People, Tyeisha Harmon received a call from Belcher Elementary School in Clearwater to pick her son, Rashaun, a special needs child. The mother stated that she had informed the school of her son's diagnosis and had told them that he had the tendency to react "negatively" to change. And that was what had happened the day she received the call. The boy was placed in a different classroom.
“I didn’t get to talk to him, but they called me and said, ‘Hey, we need you to pick up Rashuan because he’s wandering around,’” she recalls. “I said, ‘Is that all he’s doing? Is wandering around? I said, ‘Is he being aggressive or anything like that?’ And they said no. I said, ‘Okay. I’m on my way,’” recalled the mother.
Mom 'So Upset' After Son with Special Needs, 7, Is Handcuffed at School After Leaving Classroom https://t.co/B7KImJ4cs7— People (@people) March 10, 2020
Unaware of the exact situation, the worried mother drove to the school. However, she was shocked to learn that her child was no longer in school. She found that her 7-year-old was taken to a mental health facility under the Baker Act. The act enables "families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment,” according to University of Florida Health, stated People.
Harmon could not believe what the school had done. The mother quickly contacted the facility and arranged for his release as people could easily be held for 72 hours under the law.
Florida school defends handcuffing seven-year-old boy with special needs https://t.co/8f0C2wWzNr— Guardian news (@guardiannews) March 10, 2020
While the mother tried to talk with the facility staff she received another call that left her angry and unpleasantly surprised. The school police officer, who dealt with her son, said that he was wandering in the parking lot. “She said, ‘I did it because he was getting aggressive, and he scratched me,’ and she said it was either the Baker Act or [she was going to] press criminal charges,” stated the mother. The furious mother continued, "I said, ‘A 7-year-old? Because he scratched you? As a police officer? So you decided to do that?’”
Soon, Harmon got her son released from the facility after four and a half hours. But, she was in for more details that infuriated her. She learned that they handcuffed her little boy. “I took him to his favorite restaurant and we were sitting there, and then he handed me his wrist over the table and he was like, ‘Mommy, look! They handcuffed me and it scratched me.’ He told me, ‘Yeah, they threw me on the ground, and they put the handcuffs on me and then they threw me in the back of the car, and I was calling for you,'" said the mother, according to People.
The upset mother contacted the school principal the very next day. The principal defended the school's action by saying her kid was kicking cars and refused to respond to the school police officer. However, Harmon is not convinced. “That’s not grounds to do that to a child,” said the mother.
She told people that she tried to contact the school for video footage but was unsuccessful. She also added that her efforts to transfer him to another school had also failed.
However, the Pinellas County School District defended the school's actions and stated, "The student was engaging in a dangerous activity that could have hurt the student or others. Please know that restraint of students is only used as a last resort when other interventions have not resolved the issue. The safety, health, and well-being of our students and staff is our highest priority,” according to WFTS.
Meanwhile, Harmon argued that her son was not a threat. She said, "He wasn’t a danger to anybody. He was dealing with nothing but adults, and there were no other students or anything like that. He’s not suicidal, he’s not homicidal, he’s just a kid who doesn’t understand how to process his emotions," according to People.
She further added that schools should provide better training to their staff. “School resource officers honestly need better training in how to deal with kids, adults, anybody with mental health issues. Because they just arrest them and send them to people who have that experience, instead of trying to get the training that they need to be able to deescalate situations,” said the mother, according to People.