Bodycam footage has been released of the shocking moment a 10-year-old boy with autism is pinned to the ground and handcuffed by a school resource officer.
The parents of the boy, Emily and Robert Brown, are planning to take legal action against the school after they received the video of their son, Thomas, being held face down on the ground at Alexander Elementary School in Denton, Texas.
The upsetting incident reportedly lasted for two hours, with Thomas being restrained twice, after he allegedly began poking other students and ignoring teachers in the classroom.
Thomas had reportedly tried to isolate himself inside a cubbyhole. Eric Coulston, a school resource officer from Denton police department was then called to help the teachers.
You can watch the bodycam footage here:
Coulston stepped forward to help after the teacher pulled Thomas out of the cubbyhole. They then took Thomas to an empty room, as he kicked a struggled to get away, to try and get him to calm down.
However, as the boy became more aggressive the officer had to pin him to the ground. Coulston can be heard saying ‘Do you want the handcuffs? Or not?’ as he continues to hold Thomas down, ABC reports.
Coulston then puts the handcuffs on the boy, saying ‘We’re back to where we were the other day’.
The police report states that, over the next two hours, Thomas was placed in restraints once more and was only allowed to sit up when he was calm. The second time was due to Thomas tearing up tissues and throwing them at his teacher.
Thomas’ mother Emily said:
It’s abuse, the torture, and the hell that he was put through.
Thomas’s parents believe he was subjected to excessive force after he came home with bruises and marks on his body. The parents have a detailed intervention plan at the school which should be used when Thomas becomes agitated.
However, nowhere in the plan does it say to use physical force or restraints to calm him down.
Michael Holum, an advocate consultant representing Thomas’s parents, said:
It was abusive. It was excessive. It was vicious. It was calculated.
Holum, who heads Advocacy Behaviour Consulting in Texas, added that there did not appear to be any serious or imminent danger to school authorities when Thomas was put in restraints.
If he’s being put in handcuffs just because of a tissue, that’s outrageous. I do this professionally in over 50 districts. This is the worst I have ever seen and there’s no close second.
In a written statement from the Denton Independent School District, they described Thomas as ‘engaging in self-harming behaviours’ and ‘physically assaultive and unsafe behaviours’. They also noted that, after a review of the incident, no violations of professional standards were made.
However, Thomas’s parents disagree, adding:
We as parents will never stop fighting for our son, or other children, so that they can be safe within the walls of their school and free of physical, emotional and psychological [abuse] at the hands of the very people that are publicly employed to protect them.
The parents have requested an independent investigative agency to look into the incident.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.