RJN!’s open response letter to DPS school board about handcuffing elementary school students

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April 12, 2017

Dayton Board of Education
115 S. Ludlow Street
Dayton, Ohio 45402
ATTN: Robert C. Walker, D.Min, President

Dear Members of the Board:
I am writing to you with a very heavy heart. I can barely express in word how saddened, upset, and utterly disgusted I am by your lack of action—to be noted that when the news calls you suddenly all hop to attention. I have witnessed from the seven of you an inordinate amount of disrespect to parents, student, and taxpayers of this school district. Not only have you gone against the will of your constituency by continuing the atrocity of handcuffing elementary school children, but your disregard of the concerns of parents and children is egregious. I see so much more clearly as to why:
1. DPS’s enrollment is shrinking
2. There are consistent complaints from parents as to how they are treated in schools
3. Why DPS ranks at the bottom of the state

The seven of you sat on your hands and did nothing when you received news of a nine-year-old being handcuffed. No phone calls to check on the well-being of our family, no public discussion about the significance of this issue/incident. Basically, your actions reflected “we really don’t care.”
It is a sad day when it takes a press conference with local news media to get a response from an elected official. You spoke right up after the press conference. You responded to the media, but parents can wait–that sends a strong message.

You dared to say that the SRO followed protocol. So, you agree with that protocol? You see this as an acceptable protocol is a school/learning environment? You would not be creative enough to develop a new protocol? I thought that is something that leaders do.
It hurts my heart to think that a child can come home and tell his mother that a classmate was handcuffed for not listening to a teacher and ask, “If I don’t listen will I be arrested too?” Well, the answer is apparently, yes. Yes, because the school board doesn’t give a damn as long as “protocol” was followed. Your disregard for the well-being of our children has and will continue to send students out of the district in search for some place that people will have their best interests at heart. You certainly do not.

In the broader context of society, the new president has declared an all-out assault on public education with a new, unqualified Secretary of Education. They have made School Choice a platform, one that will decimate DPS and here you all are, running parents and students right into their hands. You have made a terrible blunder–and a public one at that. You have made the destruction of the local public education system a very simple thing. You have broken the bonds of trust with parents and students alike and have set the example of disregard. Your commitment to the well-being of students is absent in your decision to uphold the “protocol” of handcuffing 9-year-olds. You have embarrassed yourself and this district. Believe it!
I am saddened for the district. Dayton Public Schools will suffer immensely from your reckless and heartless decision to continue the emotionally traumatic experience of handcuffing youth. Juvenile jails stopped shackling juveniles in court based on one of the best practices against shackling (handcuffing) proposed by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys stating that “youth are impressionable and the indiscriminate use of restraints in court has been shown to influence juveniles such that it negatively impacts their future behavior.” These are youth charged with criminal behavior, yet you say it is ok in school as long a “protocol” is followed.

I stand by what I said during the press conference that you ALL should be ASHAMED to say that it is ok for elementary school children to be handcuffed. You refuse to use your own common sense, but rely on what other people are doing, even though it is not considered best practice when it comes to rehabilitative outcomes for the child. Where is the leadership in that? You would rather listen to retired police officers that run the security department about how to treat children in schools. You would rather model yourself after someone else (in the context of a declining education system) than lead by example. All of your actions here are misguided, disengaged and does not put DPS students and parents first, at best.

You have set an extremely poor example for the new superintendent on how to deal with parents of the district. Not one of you reached out to us after we came to you in public with this complaint. Not one of you cared enough to hear what we had to say