Royal Oak police defend restraint of special-needs boy

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Royal Oak Police on Monday defended officers’ handling of an incident in which a special-needs student was restrained at school, saying the boy was confrontational with school staff and emergency responders.

The department responded to a video posted on social media showing officers restraining the 13-year-old boy at Royal Oak Middle School on Thursday.

While some have commented that officers were too aggressive in the 40-second video, posted by the child’s family on Facebook, police say there is more to the story.

“This student had been verbally and physically abusive to both school staff members and his mother,” police wrote in a statement about the incident. “Emergency personnel were called to the scene to transport the child to William Beaumont Hospital.”

The incident occurred around 9:45 a.m. Thursday after an official at the school requested assistance with the student, who police described as combative.

The video, posted on Facebook on Friday, shows a male on the ground, cursing and yelling “ow” as officers try to restrain him.

“A scared, angry, frustrated, panic-stricken, yet seemingly in control very big for his age 13-year-old child turned into a caged animal and was treated to some extent by one or two of the officers as such,” the boy’s mother wrote on Facebook in response to the video. “The big guy smashing his head into the carpet was not my favorite, but of course other than videoing and watching and interjecting verbally for them to ease up and listen to my child was all I could do.”

The sister of the boy said Monday that her brother was suspended for 10 days and will be evaluated to see if his disability caused his behavior during the incident. The family is waiting to hear from an attorney to determine if they should take recourse for how the police department and school handled the incident, she said.

Police said officers initially waited outside the classroom while firefighters tried to convince the child to go willingly to the hospital for an evaluation.

“It was only after those attempts had failed and the student assaulted the firefighters that the officers entered and physically restrained the child,” police wrote. “Two officers and two firefighters worked together to secure the child on a gurney for transport to the hospital. The officers and firefighters were very patient and in control to make every effort not to hurt the child.”

The mother described her son as physically fine following the incident.

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