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Body Camera Shows School Resource Officer Handcuffing an Autistic 10-Year-Old

Officer Eric Coulston repeatedly pinned Thomas to the ground and handcuffed him after he tried to hide in a cubby hole.

|||Screenshot via ABC NewsScreenshot via ABC NewsThe parents of a young student with autism are exploring legal action after a school resource officer pinned their child to the ground and handcuffed him.

ABC News reports that a 10-year-old named Thomas at Lee Elementary School in Denton, Texas, tried to isolate himself in a cubby hole when he saw a teacher approaching him. Eric Coulston, a school resource officer with the Denton Police Department, was called in to respond to the situation. Footage from his body camera and reports to authorities explain that Coulston helped the teacher remove Thomas from the cubby hole. Coulston carried Thomas to an empty room where, as his body camera captured, he pinned him down on the ground. Thomas repeatedly screamed, cried, and kicked, asking Coulston to get off of him. Coulston replied by threatening him with handcuffs.

While placing the handcuffs on Thomas, Coulston was heard saying, "We're back to where we were the other day." A woman is seen assisting Coulston in at least one part of the ordeal.

According to ABC News, Thomas is handcuffed at least one more time during the incident after he tore up tissues and threw them towards his teacher. Thomas remained pinned down by his neck while handcuffed for long periods of time. He was only allowed to sit up without handcuffs in the moments when he was calm. At one point, reports say, Thomas was dragged across the room and held down by his arms when he attempted to get to the door.

The incident initially occurred in April. A two-hour video from Coulston's body camera is available here.

Thomas' mother, Emily Brown, told WFAA that the actions were "abuse." The actions on the video and discoveries of bruises on Thomas' body later that day have led his parents to look for lawyers in a possible suit. Thomas' parents said that they and the school had a de-escalation plan for such a situation. His father, Robert Brown, said, "There are a variety of de-escalation techniques they're supposed to be using." Handcuffs and the other events captured on video were not in that plan.

Mike Holum, a child advocate with Advocacy Behavior Consulting, similarly criticized the tactics used in the video as extreme. Holum wondered why the other adults in the school did not attempt to stop the officer. A spokesperson for the Denton city government said that Coulston "acted in a manner that best protected the student, other students, and the staff."

The Dentons are hoping to place Thomas in a charter school.

Bonus link: Reason's Robby Soave and Tyler Kotesky explore how relying on school resource officers for basic discipline does more harm than good.

Photo Credit: Screenshot via ABC News

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  • John C. Randolph||

    If you can't handle a ten year-old without handcuffs, you're too much of a goddamned pussy to be trusted with any responsibility whatsoever.

    -jcr

  • Hugh Akston||

    If you don't want to be treated like a thug, don't be born with a developmental disability like a thug.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    According to ABC News, Thomas is handcuffed at least one more time during the incident after he tore up tissues and threw them towards his teacher.

    The teacher and the officer have a right to get home safely.

  • Dillinger||

    assault with a deadly tissue - fuck you teacher and handcuff monster.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    handcuff monster

    Takes longer to say than "cop", but I like it.

  • Dillinger||

    kids' pov. dude's a monster.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>The Dentons are hoping to place Thomas in a charter school.

    edit-dick here, but they aren't the Dentons, they're IN Denton.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Denton, you say?

  • Dillinger||

    glorious.

  • Oli||

    At least he didn't shoot him. It happened in Texas, after all, and the kid was assaulting the officer and a bystander with possibly deadly projectile weapons (i.e. torn up tissues).

  • Restoras||

    Holum wondered why the other adults in the school did not attempt to stop the officer.

    He's kidding, right?

  • Jerryskids||

    Thomas' mother, Emily Brown, told WFAA that the actions were "abuse."

    I agree, sending your fucked-up kid to public school is an abuse both of the kid and of the system that declares even the most fucked-up kid has a "right" to fuck up the schools for all the non-fucked up kids. I'm sure the mother is an entitled special snowflake, but just because it's not your fault your kid can't sit still in class for two minutes without disrupting the rest of the class and doesn't deserve man-handling by a psychopath with a gun and a badge, it's not everybody else's responsibility to go out of their way to accommodate your kid's special needs.

  • Oli||

    Actually, it is:

    19 Tex. Admin. Code § 89.63:
    (a) Each local school district shall be able to provide services with special education personnel to students with disabilities in order to meet the special needs of those students in accordance with 34 Code of Federal Regulations, §§300.114-300.118.

  • Ron||

    the problem is in the past special needs students were placed with other like kind students and now they are placed with the regular kids and its just screwing up everyones life.

  • Happy Chandler||

    I'm sure separate but equal worked out well.

  • Jerryskids||

    Surprisingly enough, it didn't. Warehousing special needs students didn't work any better than warehousing crazy people in brutal hell-hole insane asylums where they didn't get adequate care and the help they needed. So they mainstreamed the special needs kids and emptied the nuthouses and that's not working so good either. You know what would work? I'll bet you don't, I don't know either. But here's the difference between you and me - you're a statist who believes there has to be some sort of solution to the problem if we just spend enough money and get enough Top Men working on solving it. I'm a libertarian who accepts that sometimes shit's just fucked up and there ain't much you can do about it, not every problem has a solution no matter how hard you try and quite often "solutions" to problems create even bigger problems than the problem you had to start with. And no matter what, any solutions are going to be horribly expensive and inefficient and involve a bigger, more intrusive government. Like the solution to "separate but equal" for the special needs kid in the video in this very article. How's that "more government" working out for that kid? About as well as it's working for the de-institutionalized mental patients living on the streets in San Francisco?

  • Shirley Knott||

    Not only is it the case that not every problem has a solution, it is also the case that not every problem is my problem.
    The set of things that I might care about is larger than the set of things about which I can take action.
    It's useful to remember this in the face of the onslaught of 'things about which something must be done.' Mind your own business is a useful maxim.

  • Azathoth!!||

    From stupid--

    I'm sure separate but equal worked out well.

    To ignorant--

    Warehousing special needs students didn't work any better than warehousing crazy people in brutal hell-hole insane asylums where they didn't get adequate care and the help they needed.

    The post I wrote last night about this appears to have vanished.

    They weren't 'warehoused'

    You separate special needs kids, particularly those with mental disabilities, from other kids BECAUSE they're not equal. 'Special' isn't a code word for retarded--it refers to special procedures, training, and equipment that's needed to care for these kids.

    That way, they could be educated in an environment geared to them. Now, they're just tossed in among the other kids, with teachers that haven't been trained to deal with physically and mentally disabled individuals--so when something goes wrong, a seizure, a breakdown, there's no one around who knows what to do.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Con't

    And 'what to do' isn't always pretty. It can look pretty scary to someone who doesn't understand that you can't stop a seizing person from thrashing about--because you could severely hurt them (it's so much fun to have students shrieking 'DO something!!!' when all you can do is try to make sure the student isn't swallowing their tongue. Or someone might need restraint to keep them from hurting themselves or others. And grabbing someone and getting them restrained and relaxed is hard to do with kids freaking out all around them.

    Those "hell-hole insane asylums" were largely closed down BECAUSE this stuff isn't pretty. What do you do with a guy who rips at his own skin if left unrestrained? What is he going to look like to a roving reporter?

    And where did he go when he was 'freed' when they shut the asylums? Out on the street. His parents were long dead. He followed them pretty quickly--infection from the thousands of cuts he continuously inflicted upon himself.

    See, the 'nuthouses' worked. And were actually slowly emptying as we found cures or treatments. But people had become unused to seeing insanity, to dealing with it--and when they saw it, and how it was treated they recoiled. Because, from a distance, it looked like torture.

    And the response was to dump these people on the streets.

  • Conchfritters||

    No shit. When I grew up this poor kid would have some serious fucking problems with the other kids in the school if he acted crazy in school. He would have been lucky if he only got his ass kicked by the other kids once a week. Do the kid a favor, mom, and send him to the mentally ill school with other mentally ill kids where the teachers are accustomed to kids hiding in their cubby holes and screaming and kick at people.

  • Rossami||

    First, you're a jerk who's wrong about the law. The kid does have a "right" to be there because the law says so. Don't like it? Change the law. But don't yell at the mother for doing exactly what the law requires her to do.

    Second, in what possible hell is it an appropriate response for a an adult to abuse a 10 year old to the point of handcuffs merely because the kid can't sit still? Sure, the kid is being a disruption to the class. But I will guarantee you that the over-reaction by the adults was a lot worse disruption. And a truly god-awful lesson for the rest of the students.

  • Bob Meyer||

    "Holum wondered why the other adults in the school did not attempt to stop the officer."

    Sure, no cop ever got agitated over someone "interfering with a officer of the law in the performance of his duties". How many civilians stood by watching Fullerton police beat Kelly Thomas into a coma?

  • Pudgeboy||

    I will never forget the murder of Kelly Thomas ...or that they got away with it. For some reason, that horror is one I've never shaken.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Remind me how the response to school shootings is to put more officers in schools.

  • Pudgeboy||

    Why do people want to grow up to be that guy? Beating up a handicapped kid, for being handicapped. Oh, and assault with tissues. Pathetic. How do you not resign in shame after realizing what you've done?

  • shortviking||

    Police are psychopaths.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    The Dentons are hoping to place Thomas in a charter school.

    And they have the gall to accuse other people of abuse??

    /proglodyte

  • majil||

    Home school and cheer when a cop is shot in the face

  • Azathoth!!||

    Sometimes caring for the mentally disabled isn't pretty.

    Sometimes it involves restraints.

    Sometimes, it involves holding a person until they calm down. Or until someone can be found who is able to calm them.

    Sometimes it can look awful to someone who doesn't know whats going on.

    Mainstreaming mentally disabled people means that more and more people are getting to see this--without knowing what's going on.

    They're going to be shocked and offended and demand that something be done. The last time something like this happened the US acquired a massive 'homeless' population.

    The sequence everyone's worked themselves into a lather over is clearly something that has happened before. The phrase the cops said 'now we're back to where we were the other day' makes that clear.

    The thing is, it's not actually an extreme procedure. Remove, Restrain, Relax. is pretty common--even with people without mental disabilities.

    It just looks absolutely abominable.

  • Bill||

    Yeah, pretty sure you don't need to handcuff
    a ten year old.

  • Azathoth!!||

    "Pretty sure", in case you're wondering, means the same thing as 'not entirely sure'.

    Having seen a lot of this stuff IRL, I'm not 'pretty sure' of anything. I know that anyone can need restraint at times.

  • Kivlor||

    ^^This.

    What do you do, not restrain the kid? The handcuffs are less likely to hurt the kid than holding him down for a prolonged period.

    Out of curiosity, what do parents here do when a child gets out of line?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Maybe follow the response plan?

  • Kivlor||

    And as a parent, what "response plan" do you have and follow?

  • SQRLSY One||

    If only we could throw a few more billions of trillions of dollars on the experts of expertology who are expertly trained in turning 145,678 flavors of retards and non-self-controlled students into paragons of virtue and self-control and disciplined students and neurosurgeons and rocket scientists and super-therapeutric shrinks and other therapeutricizers of the untermenchsen, then EVERYTHING WOULD BE PERFECT FOREVER!!!!

  • SQRLSY One||

    If only we could throw a few more billions of trillions of dollars on the experts of expertology who are expertly trained in turning 145,678 flavors of retards and non-self-controlled students into paragons of virtue and self-control and disciplined students and neurosurgeons and rocket scientists and super-therapeutric shrinks and other therapeutricizers of the untermenchsen, then EVERYTHING WOULD BE PERFECT FOREVER!!!!

  • SQRLSY One||

    (Friggin' squirrels are now even biting me, THE SQRLSY One, in the behind!!!!

    Anyway, cough up a few more trillions of dollars to the educracracy, and ALL WILL BE FIXED!!!! Yer tards will be turned into breakthroughs-generating quantum nuclear engineers!!! Just GIVE US THE MONEY $$$$!!!!

  • sarcasmic||

    Holum wondered why the other adults in the school did not attempt to stop the officer.

    Because they didn't want to be killed?

  • sarcasmic||

    My child has some severe behavior issues and goes to a school where they routinely restrain kids who get out of hand. It's terrible to watch but they don't use handcuffs, they don't pin kids' faces to the ground, they don't drag kids across the room, and they don't leave bruises. They also do everything they can to calm the child.

    Basically the opposite of what happened to this kid.

  • Jerryskids||

    My child has some severe behavior issues and goes to a school where they routinely restrain kids who get out of hand.

    Is this the norm at all the public schools in your area? Or are you saying your special needs kid goes to a special school where dealing with special needs kids is the norm?

  • gah87||

    Don't try this at home. Seriously, you will be charged with child abuse. Only the state is allowed to abuse children.

  • Irwin Mann||

    I see a whole lot of armchair quarterbacking but no workable solutions.

    Do away with compelled attendance of government schools.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Do away with compelled attendance of government schools.

    You nailed it in one.

    Too bad that would require a whole lot of otherwise unemployable people to give up their cushy jobs.

  • Irwin Mann||

    I would comment more frequently but I hate to submit.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Just so I can place this in the proper context vis-a-vis the 2016 Gee-Oh-Pee platform, is a School Resource Officer a First Responder™?

  • hello.||

    That depends on how many Christian Talibans are lurking in your closet you paranoid delusional moron.

  • hello.||

    Sorry to hear about Matt Welch's arrest.

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