Mother upset after 6-year-old daughter handcuffed by police at Mississauga school

Click to play video: 'Peel police conducting internal review after officers handcuffed 6-year-old girl at school.' Peel police conducting internal review after officers handcuffed 6-year-old girl at school.
WATCH ABOVE: Police say they were called to a Mississauga elementary school to help de-escalate a violent outburst. Catherine McDonald reports – Feb 2, 2017

The lawyer for a Peel Region mother is calling out police officers after they handcuffed her six-year-old daughter at a Mississauga school a few months ago.

Police, however, said they did it for safety reasons.

“(We’re) trying to see what’s the best way to get this level of accountability, to have some pay, to have someone answer for what happened to this child,” the mother’s lawyer Danardo Jones told Global News Thursday.

“This doesn’t make sense and this is not something that you can sweep under a rug.”

The mother was called about an incident at the school and was shocked when she returned the school’s phone call at the end of September, Jones said.

“The school secretary handed a police officer the phone who said, ‘Ma’am, there has been an incident at the school and we had to handcuff your daughter.’ And obviously when mom heard that, she was completely beside herself and she left work and she came straight to the school.”

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Officers were called to the school after receiving reports that the Grade 1 student was “acting extremely violent” and was kicking, spitting and punching, Peel Regional Police Sgt. Josh Colley told Global News.

School administrators called police, he said.

“The officers had to restrain the child for her safety and once they did that, they contacted the paramedics immediately,” Colley said.

“The officers made a decision that in the best interest of the child’s safety. One of the tools they have on them is their handcuffs, so they restrained the child using the handcuffs to limit the kicking and punching and ultimately de-escalate the situation.”

Colley said the incident lasted half an hour. He said police are reviewing the incident and said such instances are “extremely rare.”

“Standing here as an officer, I would never imagine going out there wanting to handcuff a child. But I truly care, as do other officers out there, about the child’s well-being,” he said.

Jones said the girl hasn’t had any issues outside of school when participating in after-school and weekend activities.

He said she has been suspended from school four times “for so-called behavioural issues” such as scratching and hitting

“I don’t think anybody who deals with child development, or if you’re a parent – or even if you’re an early childhood educator, would you ever equate scratching and kicking or kids throwing a tantrum as violent behaviour,” Jones said.

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He said a greater issue is at stake.

“We believe that one of the reasons, if not the primary reason for the school’s behaviour and also the police’s behaviour… Their misconduct actually is anti-black racism,” he said.

Police and school board officials denied that allegation.

When asked about the Peel District School Board’s procedures in incidents such as this one, spokeswoman Carla Pereira told Global News that school staff take a number of steps to de-escalate situations.

She said staff might take upset students to a quiet space, take them through deep breathing exercises or provide calming toys.

But Pereira said their approaches vary based on the child’s needs.

She also said attempts would be made to contact the parents to see if they could attend the school or bring in a staffer who has a positive relationship with the students. Calling police is a last resort, Pereira said.

“We’re calling first responders because a child might be so escalated that they’re having a breakdown, or that their heart is racing out of their chest, and so we want to make sure that that child – not just the children and the staff around them – but that that child is safe and healthy,” she said.

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“It really comes down to the point where we believe the child is either in danger to themselves – self-harm – or if the others in the building are at-risk because of the behaviour.”

Meanwhile, the girl has since transferred schools and school board officials said efforts are being made to resettle the student at the new school.

Catherine McDonald and Gabby Rodrigues contributed to this report.

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