A mother based in Florida is looking to understand why exactly her 7-year-old son was handcuffed in a school parking lot and sent to a mental health facility without her knowledge.
Tyeisha Harmon revealed to PEOPLE how her special-needs son Rashuan, was in class at Belcher Elementary School in Clearwater on Wednesday, March 4 when she got a phone call telling her to come pick him up.
Harmon revealed the school is aware of Rashuan’s different diagnoses, and that he’s extremely sensitive to change and tends to react “negatively.” That is what happened when he was placed in a different classroom that day.
“I didn’t get to talk to him, but they called me and said, ‘Hey, we need you to pick up Rashuan because he’s wandering around,’” she recalls. “I said, ‘Is that all he’s doing? Is wandering around? I said, ‘Is he being aggressive or anything like that?’ And they said no. I said, ‘Okay. I’m on my way.’”
Harmon reveals she was about a 20-minute drive away, but the time she arrived, Rashuan was not there as he had been taken to a mental health facility under the Bakers Act.
The Baker Act “enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment,” according to University of Florida Health.
She then reveals she was “thrown” by how her son was restrained under the Baker Act and quickly shifted gears, contacting the facility to attempt to arrange for his release, as people under the act are usually held for 72 hours.
She then received a call from the school police officer who had dealt with her son — and got a different story from what she initially heard — which was that he had left the classroom and was wandering the parking lot.
“She said, ‘I did it because he was getting aggressive, and he scratched me,’ and she said it was either the Baker Act, or [she was going to] press criminal charges,” says Harmon. “I said, ‘A 7-year-old? Because he scratched you? As a police officer? So you decided to do that?’”
Harmon shares she was able to chat with staffers at the facility her son was taken to, and she arranged for his release. And after four and a half hours and a psychiatrist screening, he was able to go back to his mother.
She revealed how it was when she learned he had been handcuffed in the chaos.
“I took him to his favorite restaurant and we were sitting there, and then he handed me his wrist over the table and he was like, ‘Mommy, look! They handcuffed me and it scratched me,’” she says. “He told me, ‘Yeah, they threw me on the ground, and they put the handcuffs on me and then they threw me in the back of the car, and I was calling for you.”
“I was so upset,” she continued.
In a meeting with the school principal, the next day and Harmon says she has informed the Rashuan was “kicking cars” and did not respond to the police officer’s calls, which was was why he was handcuffed.
“That’s not grounds to do that to a child,” she says.
Harmon states she has made efforts to get in contact with the school to obtain a report or video footage of the incident but has yet to receive a response in the week since the incident. She also says she has made unsuccessful moves to have the distinct transfer him to a different school.
The Pinellas County School District revealed to ABC affiliate WFTS in a statement that the boy “restrained for [his] own safety and the safety of others.”
“The student was engaging in dangerous activity that could have hurt the student or others. Please know that restraint of students is only used as a last resort when other interventions have not resolved the issue,” the statement read. “The safety, health, and well-being of our students and staff is our highest priority.”
But Harmon continues to argue that her son posed zero threat to anyone.
“He wasn’t a danger to anybody,” she says. “He was dealing with nothing but adults, and there were no other students or anything like that. He’s not suicidal, he’s not homicidal, he’s just a kid who doesn’t understand how to process his emotions.”
“School resource officers honestly need better training in how to deal with kids, adults, anybody with mental health issues,” she adds. “Because they just arrest them and send them to people who have that experience, instead of trying to get the training that they need to be able to deescalate situations.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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