Should Police Have Used Pepper Spray on an 8-year-old?

Posted April 7, 2011 by

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What do you do when you’re the teacher of an 8-year-old child who is spitting, cursing, screaming and threatening to kill you?

You barricade yourself in a room and call the cops.

Colorado boy Aiden threatened his teachers with a piece of sharpened wood trim he’d torn off the wall and said that he wanted to kill them. “I wanted to make something sharp if they came out because I was so mad at them,” he said. “I wanted to whack them.” And when police arrived, he said, “Get away from me, you f—–s!”

Police had been called to the same school because of Aiden’s violent tantrums before — in fact, this was the third time they were there to handle one of his outbursts. This time, they pepper sprayed him to subdue him.

Police spokesman Steve Davis defended their actions. “Our officers had to do something in a hurry to defuse the situation before someone got hurt.”

Aiden’s mom does not agree, and said that the police should have tried talking to her son first. (On the two other occasions they were called to the school, they were able to calm Aiden down by talking with him.) On Good Morning America, Aiden’s mom said that the only time her son acts out like this is at school.

His reason for having the tantrum? “We wanted to do something and the teachers said ‘no.'” And, “I wanted to be with my mom,” he said.

He says that he gets angry and has a hard time calming himself down — that he knows what he did was wrong. I wonder what really happened in that classroom that day. Just how out of control was Aiden?  If the police were afraid that he’d get hurt if they tried to subdue him physically, was pepper spray their only other option?

What do you think? Should the police have used pepper spray on Aiden — or tried something else?

Elisabeth Wilkins is the mother of an 8-year-old boy and the Editor of Empowering Parents.


Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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