Handcuffing a Third Grader? Interactions Between School Resource Officers and Students with Disabilities

Utah Law Review, 2017, Vol 2

Akron Research Paper No. 16-04

56 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2016 Last revised: 7 Jun 2017

See all articles by Elizabeth Shaver

Elizabeth Shaver

University of Akron School of Law

Janet Decker

Indiana University

Date Written: October 13, 2016


After an eight-year old boy with disabilities refused to sit down, a School Resource Officer (SRO) handcuffed the boy's elbows behind his back, restraining the child for fifteen minutes. A video of the incident made national headlines. Thereafter, the boy, along with another child with disabilities who had experienced similar treatment, filed suit. Cases like this highlight the complex issues that arise when a student with disabilities engages in undesired behavior at school and that behavior leads to the intervention of an SRO. This article examines those issues and offers recommendations. It begins by providing a background about SROs, focusing on their training and responsibilities. Next, the article reviews the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that pertain to the use of behavioral interventions to address undesired behavior of students with disabilities. The article then provides a legal analysis of lawsuits brought by students against SROs. These cases reveal the need for a comprehensive training program for SROs, clear delineation of the scope of - and limitations on - the SRO's duties, and strict adherence by both school personnel and the SRO to their respective roles. Therefore, the article offers recommendations that involve a variety of stakeholders, including school administrators, teachers, SROs, and parents of students with disabilities.

Keywords: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, behavioral intervention, student, SRO, disabilities

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Shaver, Elizabeth and Decker, Janet, Handcuffing a Third Grader? Interactions Between School Resource Officers and Students with Disabilities (October 13, 2016). Utah Law Review, 2017, Vol 2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2749706

Elizabeth Shaver (Contact Author)

University of Akron School of Law ( email )

150 University Ave.
Akron, OH 44325-2901
United States

Janet Decker

Indiana University ( email )

100 South Indiana Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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