After public outrage over an officer's decision to handcuff a 7-year-old student, the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department added an extra layer of discretion, Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced Friday afternoon.
Chief Ian Moffett directed officers to seek the approval of a lieutenant or a higher-ranking official before deciding to remove and detain a disruptive student for a psychiatric evaluation at a hospital, in a practice protected by the Florida Mental Health Act, better known as the Baker Act.
"These measures will ensure all options have been exhausted, limiting the transport of younger students and providing appropriate checks and balances," Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said in a statement.
An officer handcuffed the Coral Way Bilingual K-8 Center student after he hit a teacher last week and forced him into the back seat of a patrol car. Video of the incident went viral and outraged parents around the world.
After a Coral Way Bilingual K-8 Center teacher told the boy not to play with his food during lunch, he punched and kicked her until she fell down, according to the incident report. It was the second time he was put in handcuffs and submitted to a psychiatric evaluation at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.
"This action was warranted to prevent his erratic and violent behavior from bringing further harm to others or himself," Moffett said in a statement after the incident.
The boy's parents believe school police officers went too far. Gonzalez-Diego said Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho's chief of staff requested a "detailed review of procedures" regarding the use of handcuffs when transporting "young students during Baker Acts." The review, she said, is ongoing.
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