On Thursday, a 7-year-old boy was removed from his school by police car in handcuffs. His mother, Mercy Álvarez, witnessed the entire ordeal, and now she’s calling the treatment “police abuse.”
According to the Miami Herald, the boy was taken to receive a psychological evaluation in accordance with a Florida law called the Florida Mental Health Act, better known as the Baker Act. It requires anyone who appears to be a threat to themselves or others to be evaluated, with or without their consent.
So, what qualified putting a 7-year-old in handcuffs? The Miami Herald reports that the boy was removed from the school cafeteria for playing with his food, according to the police report, and was brought into the hallway where his teacher was, WSVN reports.
There, he allegedly “attacked the teacher by repeatedly punching her on her back,” according to WSVN. The boy was then restrained, but he kept punching and kicking until he and the teacher fell to the floor. According to the police report, he kept fighting even after he fell to the floor.
His mother arrived at the school before police, and although, according to her, her son was calm by the time officers came, they still handcuffed him.
Miami-Dade Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Calzadilla explained to the Miami Herald:
“[The boy] began behaving erratically and hit a teacher. Due to a great concern for the student and to ensure his safety and that of those around him, he was restricted according to the Baker Act and transported to the hospital to be evaluated.”
His mother, however, said the police force was unnecessary:
“The principal, the counselor, and two other people tried to prevent that action and the officer took the child anyway.”
According to the Miami Herald, Álvarez reassured her son as he was being taken away, saying:
“Do not worry, my love.”
She filmed the entire ordeal and posted it to Facebook in order to bring awareness to what she believes is unethical treatment.
However, this wasn’t the boy’s first behavioral incident at the school, The Miami Herald reports. It was the second time in less than three months that the school called the police on the boy. The boy was also suspended for 10 days last fall.
But Álvarez feels the police’s actions did not match the severity of what her son did:
“This is police abuse; a whim of the officer, because my son was calm when they came to look for him. He does not have a mental disorder … more than 30 mothers in Miami have written to me in solidarity because their children have done the same thing.”
She also believes her son is acting out because he’s being bullied. Now, she fears how police treated him will only further that hurt:
“They have created a psychological trauma, and instead of fixing the problem, you are building a problem.”
Handcuffing children has been a controversial practice in the U.S. for some time now. Several months ago, as Dearly previously reported, police cuffed an 11-year-old girl while looking for a 40-year-old suspect until they could officially identify the people in the girl’s home. The footage of the cuffing went viral, and police were slammed for the treatment of the minor.
In a 2015 article, CNN reported that handcuffing children can have long-term negative effects. Cases have been reported of children as young as four years old being handcuffed — in many cases, the cuffs were placed around their biceps because they were so small — and research has determined that cuffing a child is harmful to the psyche.
Álvarez says her son used to want to be a police officer. Now, however, he says he no longer wants to because “the police are bad,” the Miami Herald reports.