MIAMI – The president of the Fraternal Order of Police for Miami-Dade Schools Police said the FOP lodge "wholeheartedly" stands behind the actions of the officer who handcuffed a 7-year-old boy last week at a Miami school.
Cellphone video taken by the boy's mother shows the handcuffed boy and the police officer walking through the school grounds at Coral Way Bilingual K-8 Center as he is led to a patrol car.
The video has gone viral on social media, with some questioning whether the officer went too far in handcuffing a young child, or whether she was incapable of handling a 7-year-old without the need for handcuffs.
"It broke my heart," Julissa Sanchez, whose child also attends the school, said. "I don't want that to happen to my kid. He is only 7."
FOP President Al Palacio said in a news release Monday that while it is unpleasant to "take action" when dealing with a young person, it is "necessary to take appropriate preventative measures to avoid a greater tragedy from possibly occurring in the future."
Palacio said the officer, who has not been publicly identified, acted within state laws and guidelines when dealing with a child who has committed an offense.
"We believe this officer handled herself as a consummate and caring professional," Palacio said.
Some parents whose children attend the school disagreed with Palacio.
"It seems a little extreme. It's a little overboard -- a little over the top," one father said.
Miami-Dade Schools police said incident happened after the teacher had told the boy on Thursday to stop playing with his food or she would throw it away.
Sometime later, the teacher was talking about the incident with the boy's lead teacher in the hallway when the boy attacked, punching her on the back, authorities said.
Police said the teacher tried to restrain the boy, but he continued to kick and punch, causing the pair to fall to the ground. While on the floor, the boy grabbed the teacher's hair, police said.
Police said the boy calmed down after the teacher finally restrained him and he was taken to the principal's office.
School officials said several students and the other school employee witnessed the attack. School security cameras also recorded the incident, officials said.
The student was taken to Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami for a mental health evaluation. Palacio said the boy was not arrested and was handcuffed so he could be safely transported to the hospital.
According to an incident report, the teacher, identified as Linda Arenas, 33, complained that her back hurt after the incident and she told police that she wanted to press charges against the young boy.
The boy's father said he knows his son made a mistake, but believes the school and police department went too far.
"I know that my kid made a mistake," the father said. "This is completely insane."
The boy's father said his son is traumatized after being handcuffed.
The parents are now considering taking legal action against the school district.