The parents of five-year-old Connor Ruiz have vowed to sue the Indian River Central School District in Philadelphia, New York, after their “out of control,” “combative” son was handcuffed and shackled by police officers at his elementary school.
Police were called to a classroom for special needs students at Philadelphia Primary School last Wednesday morning when Connor was reportedly “screaming, kicking, punching, and biting” school staff, who had previously attempted—for two hours—to calm him using “nonviolent crisis intervention.” From the Watertown Daily Times:
Trooper Keller said school staff notified police that Connor “was jumping from cabinets and desks, was attempting to jump out of a window ... he was stabbing himself with pencils and eating paper.”
The boy allegedly bit off a piece of foam from a padded play mat “and tried to cause himself to choke,” he said, adding that the school nurse was able to remove the foam from his mouth before troopers arrived.
He said Trooper Steven Watkins initially arrived at the classroom, and was later joined by Trooper Keith Kloster. The pair tried to restrain the child, using first verbal, then physical techniques, he said, but they were unsuccessful. They then decided to take him to Samaritan [Medical Center] for a mental health evaluation.
According to the Daily Times, officers handcuffed Connor and carried him to their vehicle, where they shackled his feet “because he was attempting to kick and be physically combative.”
Connor’s parents were then notified by school staff that their son had been taken to the hospital for evaluation by police because he “posed a risk to himself, students, school staff, and troopers.” A doctor at the hospital told the child’s mother, Chelsea, that Connor did not need to see a psychiatrist following the episode, and that “he was just being a boy and threw a tantrum.”
“An officer told me they had to handcuff his wrists and ankles for their safety,” Chelsea Ruiz, 25, told the Daily Times. “I told him that was ridiculous. How could someone fear for their safety when it comes to a small, 5-year-old child? He said that he understood because he had four children of his own.”
Chelsea Ruiz told the paper that her son was diagnosed in the past year with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder; he had started in the special needs class at Philadelphia Primary two weeks earlier.
Connor’s parents and the school district are now caught in a back-and-forth about whether they consented to having Connor taken to the hospital by police. The school claims “our records show the father OK’d the transport.” Ryan Ruiz, Connor’s father, denies having given consent.
“They called me at work and told me Connor was acting up and trying to eat crayons and that he was being taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation,” Ryan Ruiz, 25, told the Daily Times. “I would have told them not to do it, but they didn’t ask me. One of us could have came to try to calm him down, but I was never asked. It would have taken me about 20 minutes to get there.”
The parents claim Connor is now “terrified of going back to school”; they have since pulled him from class at Philadelphia Primary.
“I’ll be suing for emotional distress, child cruelty and endangerment for cuffing his hands and feet,” Chelsea Ruiz said. “I will make sure that I get every person who was involved in this to take responsibility.”