Three 9-year-old girls and an 8-year-old boy were handcuffed and arrested at Morrell Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Md., after allegedly being involved in a fight at the school that led to one of the children being "forced onto railroad tracks," WJZ TV reports.
Despite outrage from parents and the American Civil Liberties Union -- who claim the arrests violate state law -- the Baltimore Police Department defend their decision to keep the children in a holding cell for 12 hours.
“It’s our policy, regardless of the age, when a suspect is arrested by police, they’re handcuffed," Det. Jeremy Silbert told WJZ-TV. "And the reason is just not for the suspect’s safety but also for officers’ safety."
Loretta Hammonds, mother of one of the students, told WBAL-TV that she was outraged when the school called to tell her about the arrest.
"I immediately ran to the Juvenile Justice Center, and they would not let me see her or even talk to her," Hammonds told the station. "I just started crying. My baby's in the back of a cell and she's 9-years-old."
Sonia Kumar, an attorney with the ACLU, told WBAL this wasn't how the arrests should have been carried out.
"The department appears to be in violation regarding school arrests, " Kumar told the station. "You're really not supposed to arrest children at school during school hours when it's feasible to do it at home and with the parents notified."
The Baltimore Sun reports the arrests were an effort on the part of the police to respond to area parents' outrage after the bullying incident -- where one child allegedly almost drowned and another's head was "forced onto a railroad track."
The four children have been charged with aggravated assault for the incident.
Similar cases of children facing adult-style arrest situations have been reported across the country.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office is reviewing the case of 10-year-old Joanna Ramos, who died following an after-school fight, to determine if charges should be filed against her opponent, a girl whose name has not been released.
Early last month, a Colorado community expressed outrage when 11-year-old Yajira Quezada was handcuffed for rudeness. The Shaw Heights Middle School student was then taken to a holding facility because she was "argumentative and extremely rude" to an assistant principal, according to the police report.
And in November, 14-year-old Brian Thompson, a student at Colonial Forge High School in Virginia, was handcuffed, placed in a cop car and suspended from school. His infraction: running down the sidelines during halftime at a school football game wearing a banana costume, which Thompson called a "harmless prank." School officials, however, charged him with:
"disobedience of an administrator, disrespectful behavior toward an administrator, disruption of an activity, refusal to follow directions of an administrator, any violation of the student handbook, including a continued disregard of the Student Code of Conduct and any other conduct considered by the principal to be disruptive and presenting an immediate danger to the welfare, health, and safety of any person.."
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