The story of Kaylb Primm got a lot of attention last week. It's yet another story of a non-white child being handcuffed (I've written about such cases regularly. See below for links) in school for behavioral reasons. The MO ACLU is suing. Rebecca Klein, from Huffington Post, wrote a widely shared story.
Kaylb Wiley Primm was in second grade in Kansas City when he started crying in class because he was being bullied. Within minutes, the child found himself in handcuffs. Two years later, his life is just getting back to normal.Klein didn't mention it, but I thought - we're going to find out he's got a disability.
The incident began when a school-based police officer happened to walk by Kaylb’s classroom and hear him crying and disrupting other students, according to a lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kaylb’s family. When Kaylb continued to cry and yell in the hallway, against the officer’s requests, the officer put the child in handcuffs and brought him to the main office, where he sat until a parent arrived.
A lawyer friend, this morning, sent me the complaint, and sure enough:
15. At the time of the incident giving rise to this complaint, Plaintiff was seven years old and was finishing his second-grade year at George Melcher Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri, which is part of the KCPS system.In other words, the disability aspect of this incident was directly causal, perhaps in more way than one. First, the bullying emerged from ableism. Second, it's not improbable that the officer shouting at the boy (which caused him to cry more, which then led to more shouting, grabbing painfully, and then the handcuffing) was not an effective means to communicate with a distraught boy who is hard of hearing.
16. Plaintiff has a hearing impairment in one ear and was bullied and taunted by classmates from time to time.
Not all the media coverage even mentions Primm's disability, which troubles me. I don't see any coverage that actually cites the disability issues and the high rate of such encounters for disabled non-white children in particular. I don't see any coverage that talks to people from the Deaf/HoH community or other experts in disability discrimination in schools. We can't erase the disability component of Primm's identity from this story, or any story.
My published writing on the abuse of disabled children by law enforcement in schools.
- Hung by his Belt: Mistreatment of Disabled Child in Georgia (CNN.com, 5/4/16)
- How to End the School to Prison Pipeline (Pacific Standard, 3/24/16)
- When Teachers Abuse Disabled Children (Pacific Standard, 12/17/2015)
- The Outrage of Handcuffing Children in Schools (CNN.com, 8/5/15)
- The Corrosive Cult of Compliance in Our Schools (Al Jazeera America, 4/22/15)
And recent blog posts on this manifestation of the Cult of Compliance
- In Georgia Schools, in Chicago - handcuffed beneath a stair, about 15 cases I pulled together for the Al Jazeera piece.