On the Today show, an eight year old Colorado boy and his mother related the boy’s story of being disciplined by police at school with pepper spray. By his own admission he was so out of control that he had thrown a TV and chairs, chased his teachers with a sharp stick, and even threatened them with death if they left an office. The police who were called to the scene allege that Aiden refused to drop the stick; Aiden says that he was slowly putting the stick down and police sprayed him when it touched the floor.
Although the police department maintains that they did the right thing to control a difficult situation, the mother argues that force was excessive and the situation could have been handled differently. Aiden attended a specific class for children with behavior and emotional problems, so she feels the teachers should have been equipped to deal with the situation by calling a special team from the police department trained to handle children in crisis. A team of this nature had come to the school twice before and been able to talk Aiden down from his rage. Aiden’s mother tells that he only has such outbursts at school, particularly during times of transition, and never at home or at extracurricular events.
Could this happen here?
Under North Carolina law each school in the Cabarrus County School District has a school improvement plan in place, part of which must address any school safety and discipline concerns. Harrisburg Elementary has a school interventionist to help students with behavior issues learn to control their emotions as well as counselors, a social worker, and specially trained teachers who work specifically with special needs children.
Pepper spray has been used at local high schools in the past. High school resource offers from the Concord Police Department even carry Tasers, which would only be used if others were in imminent danger. Former Cabarrus County Superintendent Dr. Harold Winkler said the use of Tasers was approved because pepper spray often affect people surrounding the intended target.
In Cabarrus County children with emotional and behavioral problems may be placed in special education classes with teachers educated about each specific student. School administrators and school resource officers would be notified if a student threatened others with a weapon of any sort, and parents of the child would be called immediately. Students with behavior problems will have an Individualized Education Program put in place to help diagnose and treat their behavior problems.
With all the professional training, policies, and procedures in place it is unlikely that any student, especially one as young as a second grader, would be subdued with pepper spray. If you are the parent of a child with behavior control problems the Harrisburg Elementary School recommends using “You Can Handle Them All” – a web reference for dealing with misbehavior at school and at home.