The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Kansas City Public Schools after a school resource officer handcuffed a second grader.
The incident happened in 2014, says ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman, after 7-year-old Kalyb Wiley Primm began to cry in class.
Mittman says Primm had been bullied.
“He didn’t want to go with the officer, who was being scary,” Mittman says. “Instead of calming the child, instead of reassuring him, instead of finding out what was wrong, the officer yelled at him, told him to stop crying and then handcuffed him.”
Primm allegedly sat, handcuffed, in the principal’s office for 15 minutes before his mother arrived.
“I think it’s an important question that we as a community must ask of our schools: how is it possible that this happened?” Mittman says.
But it happens more often than you might think. Schools in Missouri have wide latitude to set their own discipline policies. In fact, Missouri leads the nation in suspending young, black students.
“What we see from the data is there are too many students are disciplined improperly,” says Mittman. “There are too many young students of color who are treated unfairly and differentially. They are suspended at higher rates. They are expelled at higher rates.”
Primm, who is black, was too scared to return to school. Now 9, he has been homeschooled for the last two years.
A spokeswoman for KCPS said the district doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.