10-Year-Old Boy with Autism Restrained, Handcuffed by School Resource Officer

A 10-year-old boy with autism received marks and bruises on his body after being repeatedly restrained and handcuffed by a school resource officer in an incident caught on camera.

Emily Brown, the boy’s mother, is calling for an independent investigation.

The situation happened last April at Lee Elementary School in Denton.

However, the police body camera video showing part of the incident was just recently released.

State laws allow students, including those with special needs to be restrained, at times even with handcuffs, for a limited amount of time if they pose an imminent danger or threat to themselves, others or serious property destruction.

But Brown says the school resource officer went too far.

The family has hired an attorney.

Denton I.S.D. and the Denton Police Department say their employees followed procedures to keep the boy safe.

The same questions persist for Brown four months following the incident.

“Why,” she asks. “Why? It’s just a 10-year-old little boy.”

Her son Thomas had reportedly been agitated all day, according to incident reports obtained from the school and police department.

The boy had allegedly unplugged a computer mouse and started swinging it around, poking one student and pinching another.

A school resource officer, assigned to the school through the Denton Police Department, went into the special education classroom and at one point turned his body camera on.

The boy is seen on camera near a computer in the back of the classroom and then retreats into a cubby hole as his teacher walks toward him.

“Hop out,” she said instructing the boy to walk to a specialized room called SOAR that is used for students to be isolated from other students in order to cool off.

When the boy doesn’t budge, the teacher pulls him out by one arm.

He then goes limp and sits on the floor.

The officer asks the teacher if she wants help, she says ‘yes.’

He then picks up the boy and walks out of the classroom.

The officer’s body camera captures the boy flailing his legs in the air.

The boy is then restrained several times including twice with handcuffs over a one hour period after the boy struggles to get up, throws tissue paper and spits toward the officer.

“This is the worst I’ve seen on the part of a police officer,” said Mike Holum of Advocacy Behavior Consulting.

Holum has handled numerous cases like this and believes the boy should have been left alone when he retreated into the cubby hole.

The boy’s mother is called and enters the room where Thomas is sitting on the floor.

She says it’s only when they got home afterward that she saw the marks on his body.

“When you see what they did to him how can your heart not just bleed out just a little bit,” said Brown.

“It probably doesn’t look right, but it’s right,” said law enforcement expert Rich Emberlin. “It’s necessary because if the kid gets out and runs out on the street or something like that it’s on the officer.”

Emberlin is a 30-year law enforcement veteran who served with the Dallas Police Department SWAT.

After viewing the video Emberlin said the officer followed protocols.

“I promise you that officer did not want to hurt that kid,” he said. “Do we need to generally, not just Denton, generally speaking need to look at new protocols? Maybe. Maybe there are other ways to handle it.”

Brown contends her son was so traumatized she has pulled him out of the school.

Thomas will instead attend a charter school this year.

“This is about justice for Thomas,” she said.

The school district and police department declined on-camera interviews.

Denton ISD sent a statement to NBC 5 saying in part:

“..we will continue to review our practices and work with our partner law enforcement agencies - in this case the Denton Police Department - to ensure that the established protocols are followed safely and effectively.”

The school resource officer is still serving Denton ISD at a local middle school.

Classes begin on Wednesday.

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