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Racism in the Sunshine State
Florida police handcuff 5-year-old

By Nicole Colson | April 29, 2005 | Page 1

IN GEORGE Bush's America, kids aren't just left being left behind in our schools. Sometimes, they're dragged out in handcuffs.

That's what happened to a 5-year-old African American girl at Fairmount Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg, Fla., last month.

The incident--which was caught on tape when a teacher recorded her class as part of a teaching exercise--began when the kindergartner apparently refused to participate in a math lesson counting jelly beans. When her jelly beans were taken away, the child began throwing books and boxes, ripping papers off a wall, and kicking and hitting at a teacher and assistant principal.

The school called the girl's mother, who said she would be able to pick up her daughter at 3:15 p.m. But school officials decided that was too long to wait. So they called the police, who arrived 15 minutes before the child's mother had said she would. This was the second time the cops had been called on the kindergartner.

The videotape shows police entering the room where the kindergartner--who appears calm--was sitting at a table. "Do you remember me?" one officer asks the girl. "I'm the one who told your mom I'd put handcuffs on you."

Seconds later, three officers stood the child up, pinned her arms behind her back and bent her over a table to put handcuffs on her--as the terrified girl screamed "No!" "I don't want to go to jail," she sobbed.

The humiliation didn't stop there. With her hands bound with plastic ties and her ankles in handcuffs, police put her in the back of a cruiser. The girl was later released to her mother, after the State Attorney's office informed police that a 5-year-old would never be prosecuted.

Actually, Florida cops have a history of targeting kids--even very young ones. In 1998, a 5-year-old kindergarten student in Pensacola, Fla.--also African American--was fingerprinted, photographed for a mug shot in the local county jail after scratching and biting an associate teacher. She was charged with felony battery of an educator or elected official.

That same year, a 6-year-old Latino boy was taken out of his Lakeland, Fla., elementary school in handcuffs and placed on "house arrest"--and charged with felony battery after a fight with teachers.

John Trevena, a lawyer for the family in St. Petersburg told CBS News, "The image itself will be seared into people's minds when you have three police officers bending a child over a table and forcibly handcuffing her. It's incomprehensible...There is certainly a better way of dealing with this situation."

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