Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Police Pepper-Spray Misbehaving 8 Year Old

I saw this story in the news last month and was wondering if you too had seen it. What do you think, do you think the police went too far?

I personally find it hard to believe that there wasn’t another way to diffuse the situation. As a parent of a child who rages, I’ve been trained by our therapist on how to handle these moments safely. When he was 8 years old, I was taught to put my son into a hold until he was able to calm himself down. I know from experience the situation is very scary, but these are police officers, you’d think they’d be able to handle an 8 year old without inflicting harm. The ironic thing is, if I sprayed my son with pepper-spray while he was violently raging (something I would never do), I would most likely be charged with child abuse and have my children taken away.

So, what are your thoughts? Would you be upset if this was your child?

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In the news:
Colorado Police Pepper-Spray Misbehaving Boy, 8 - ABC News

Video Source:

Posted: 4.6.2011
Consulted: May 10, 2011


  1. You make an excellent point that in no way would a parent be allowed to pepper spray their child but the police can do it...that makes no sense. If anyone ever sprayed a child of mine I would be furious.

  2. I disagree. Sure I was concerned when I read the headline "8 year old pepper-sprayed at school" but when you hear the circumstances, I find they did the right thing. The kid sharpened a stick and was planning to hit someone with it. When someone, even an 8 yo has armed himself and is physically threatening people, he has sped past unruly and bullying and rushed right into criminal. The cops did what they should have. If they had tried to restrain him physically they could have seriously injured him. Of course as the child's mother I would be upset but the child obviously needs help.

  3. I have worked with 8 year old and younger kids who have severe behavioral issues. It is very difficult to restrain the kids during an episode and as a school employee you have to follow a very thin line of discipline. Based on the facts of the story and the threatening comments from the child I believe the police officers did what they had to do to protect the staff and the other children.

  4. I am horrified, but unfortunately not shocked. As a trained teacher, I also learned how to safely hold raging children. Inflicting pain on them is so wrong on so many levels; it makes the emotional pain so much deeper when physical pain is coupled with it.
    However, our society offers children so few rights. Kids are treated by adults as objects to be dealt with. I don't see how spraying this kid was the best solution; if you are going to mainstream kids with issues, then you need to provide training to those near them to support that and keep them safe. Helping children is rarely the goal; managing them in the moment is. This is so sad, but I don't expect that it's all that uncommon. There are a ton of states that still allow schools to paddle children without parental consent. What does that say about our social fabric.

    Mama Bear, I am so glad that I found your blog! It's great that there are people out here talking about important issues for kids who are not compliant and "easy." Whether we like it or not kids with challenges will grow up to members of the community; how we treat them now informs how they treat us later.

  5. CTG-I’m glad you found my blog, I look forward to more of your comments! I really like your comment, " Whether we like it or not kids with challenges will grow up to members of the community; how we treat them now informs how they treat us later.”

    This child talked about how he didn’t know what road he would take in the future, my concern is that how this situation was handled (at the age of 8) will only reinforce that he will have a bad life. He said:

    "I don't know how my future is going to be--rich, happy, good life road or bad, homeless, poor road," he said.


  6. Some of you bring up a valid point about how difficult it is to restrain a raging child, I wonder if pepper spray was used to avoid a lawsuit that may have followed trying to restrain the child? Was it more about lawsuits, then what was best for the child?

    I guess for me it’s hard to hold my son in a rage, but my husband seems to be able to handle this. I would imagine that a police officer would have the training and strength needed to hold him.

  7. I can also see Anonymous’ point about doing what you have to, to protect others. But isn’t there a better way for an 8 year old?

  8. It seems like the police, in general, are not well trained for dealing with either children or mental illness. When some poor child is both is it sad. It does seem there could've been a better way to get the boy under control safely for everyone involved.

  9. I agree Heather, many police just don't seem well trained for working effectively with children or mental illness issues. Sometimes even those that are called on to assist, with the specific understanding of a mental health issue are ill informed. Yes, I would be irate if my child was sprayed with pepper spray, yet the situation may or may not lend itself to alternatives. I have seen my child in rages such that she's ripped hinges out of the wall on her bedroom door (a solid wood door w/2" screws). At times, I've found it extremely difficult at times to restrain her.

    I can understand the viewpoint of law enforcement officials brought into a situation to protect others and obtain compliance, but there has to be a better way. You are right that the means to an end can impact a child in such profound ways that sometimes can never be repaired. I don't have the answers for sure.

  10. Wow, that does seem excessive. I hope this child is able to get the kind of help he needs.