Police body-worn video shows 9-year-old handcuffed at Oviedo elementary school

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Parents of a 9-year-old boy have filed a lawsuit against the city of Oviedo, claiming their child’s rights were violated by the school resource officer and another officer who arrived at the school to assist.

The incident happened in the school mailroom at Stenstrom Elementary School on Feb. 2, 2023.

According to the federal lawsuit, the child began exhibiting physical aggression outlined in his Behavioral Intervention Plan, otherwise known as a “BIP,” and was taken to the mailroom to calm down.

While there, the school resource officer that day entered the room and turned on her body cam. The child can be seen in the video throwing pieces of mail and other items around the room and at the SRO.

Despite the child’s “BIP” describing that school staff should limit interactions and give attention to the child during his episodes and not engage in any conversation until he completes the task, the SRO can be heard engaging with the boy throughout the video, asking him questions.

Eventually, the SRO calls for backup; when the second officer arrives at the school, he tells the SRO, “I am going to handcuff him.” The SRO can be heard saying, “You can do that, I can’t.” Before the Oviedo police officer arrived to assist the SRO, the Certified School Counselor can be heard telling the SRO not to handcuff the boy.

As the officer handcuffs the boy and places him on the ground, a school employee can be heard in the background saying, “I don’t think you can do that.” The SRO responded back, saying, “He can do that because he is on the road.”

As the 9-year-old boy is handcuffed, the SRO continues to engage him, asking him if he wants to go to jail.

As seen in the body-worn video, the child remains handcuffed for more than 12 minutes until he settles back down.

“There is no question that a six-foot-tall 200-pound police officer can find some other method to assist a child than to use his handcuffs,” says Matthew Dietz, who is the Clinical Director at the Disability Inclusion and Advocacy Law Clinic at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Law. Dietz told Eyewitness News that handcuffs should be a last resort when it comes to children.

“For example, Florida has passed a law that prohibits restraint or seclusion restraining using mechanical devices like a handcuff, unless that’s the absolute last thing,” says Dietz, who also found the engagement between the SRO and the student disturbing.

“I thought she was definitely egging him on.”

Dietz says it appears from the body cam footage that Stenstrom staff understood the child’s behavioral intervention plan. They rarely interacted with him and used foam mats to keep him from kicking them and hurting himself.

The school employees even questioned the officers’ use of the handcuffs on the child. “The behavioral intervention plan is made for this specific purpose. They know the child has a disability. They know the child has breakdowns and acts out.”

According to an Oviedo Police Spokesperson, the officers were never investigated internally for the incident and remain on the job. The family of the child did not want to comment. Their attorney told us that is the reason they filed the lawsuit anonymously.

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