9-year-old autistic boy handcuffed at school
The parents of Daniel Ten Oever are used to getting calls from his school.
The nine year old has autism and occasionally acts out in what they call “outbursts.”
But nothing could have prepared them for the call they got Thursday morning. When they arrived at St. Jerome Catholic School in Ottawa’s Riverside South they learned that their nine year old son had been handcuffed by a police officer.
“I immediately started crying,” says his mother, Stephanie Huck. “I was horrified.”
Daniel’s parents were told their son was behaving violently, “throwing down chairs,” says his father Dan Ten Oever.
But they still aren’t sure why the school and the police had to resort to handcuffs.
“My nine year old autistic son is being handcuffed at school. We bring him there and we hope that he's safe and we pick him up on these sorts of circumstances. It's horrendous,” says Huck.
“Normally maybe they just would have kind of cornered him somewhere and just let him calm down in a chair. Try to talk him down a little bit," adds Ten Oever.
The Ottawa Catholic School Board issued a brief statement saying its “protocol for dealing with violent incidents includes ensuring the safety of all students and staff at all times.” It goes on to say “…our staff acted appropriately to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”
The Ottawa Police Service would not comment other than to say officers will use their handcuffs to restrain an individual when necessary regardless of the situation. They will not comment on this specific incedent.
Lynne Thibodeau is the Executive Director of Spectrum Intervention Group, an organization that, among other things, helps parents and schools deal with students with problem behaviours. She says she’s never heard of a student being handcuffed. “We work with many kids with severe problem behaviour, aggression, property destruction, and we don't use restraints," she says.
In a statement, Autism Ontario said "We're surprised to hear about this incident. We've partnered with the Ottawa Police with the creation of their Police Autism Registry. The online registry promotes commmunication and gives police quick access to critical information about a registered person with autism."
Daniel’s parents are still looking for answers from the school board and the police as to why he was handcuffed. But they say the real issue is that schools are trying to integrate children with autism and other special needs without the proper training and resources to back them up. They say autistic children need to go to “regular” schools to learn how to socialize. But when the inevitable problems arise they need to be dealt with appropriately.
In their estimation that does not include being handcuffed by the police. “These people are supposed to serve and protect us and he's already, at 9 years old, scared to be around police officers,” says Ten Oever. “And that's the biggest issue for me is the trauma that he has to go through.”