PARKLAND, Wash. - An upset mother is speaking out after a school resource officer handcuffed her 8-year-old son at school.
It happened in the principal’s office at Brookdale Elementary in Parkland.
Amanda Bullinger said it started on the elementary school's playground on Monday. Her 8-year-old son Ayden had been dealing with an ongoing bullying problem, which had come to a head.
“It was like 11:15-ish that I got a call. It was the principal. She said she had Ayden in the office and he had an altercation at recess,” Bullinger said.
Ayden told his mother an older student was bullying him at school over the past few months.
To make matters more difficult, he struggles with sensory processing disorder. His mom said intense situations trigger anxiety and emotional meltdowns. But she never thought it would lead to what she saw when she arrived at school.
“I get there and I see a police car in the parking lot, and I said, ‘Oh this can't be good.’ I go into the office and Ayden is sitting in a chair, hands cuffed behind his back and a police office is holding him down like this," Bullinger said. "And Ayden is bright red crying, freaking out.”
The school resource officer helped escort Ayden from the school and he's been suspended since then.
“It really is one of those options of last resort, if you will,” said Willie Painter, spokesperson for Franklin-Pierce Schools.
Painter said federal privacy laws keep him from sharing the details in Ayden’s case. A police report shows Ayden yelled "I'm going to kill him" to the other boy and became physically combative.
Painter said imminent bodily harm to another or to the individual himself is what can trigger a restraint.
“The use of restraint is only used when no other feasible option exists,” said Painter.
An NBC analysis of federal data shows students with disabilities are 23 times more likely to be subjected to mechanical restraint at school.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction just began collecting data in 2016. In the first 6 months of that year, only eight districts have used handcuffs on students. Franklin-Pierce is one of them.
The other districts are Federal Way, Freeman, Highline, Kelso, Kent, Renton, and Spokane. The state information did not give clear numbers of how many cases of handcuffing happened in elementary schools.
The cuffs left marks and bruises on Ayden. His mom says emotional wounds will take much longer to heal.
“He was an 8-year-old,” she said. “There could have been other options.”