Chief stands by decision to cuff child
01:34 - Source: WMAZ

Story highlights

NEW: The episode recalls a 2005 incident in which a 5-year-old girl was handcuffed in Florida

A Georgia 6-year-old is arrested after tantrum in principal's office

Salecia Johnson was handcuffed after several attempts to calm her down, police say

"When a person is put in handcuffs it's for their safety, it's not a punishment," say police

CNN  — 

Police in Georgia defended their decision Tuesday to handcuff and arrest a 6-year-old elementary student after the school called to report a juvenile had assaulted a principal and was damaging school property.

Milledgeville police said they were called to Creekside Elementary School on Friday for an unruly juvenile, who was allegedly throwing a tantrum.

According to their report, when the officer arrived, he observed kindergartner Salecia Johnson on the floor of the principal’s office screaming and crying.

The officer stated in the report that he noticed damage to school property and tried numerous times to calm the girl, who eventually “pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me.”

“The child was then placed in handcuffs for her safety and the officer proceeded to bring her down to the police station,” said Chief Dray Swicord.

Despite the girl’s behavior, her family said police should not have been involved.

“I don’t think she misbehaved to the point where she should have been handcuffed and taken downtown to the police department,” Johnson’s aunt, Candace Ruff, told CNN affiliate WMAZ.

The girl was released to Ruff after numerous attempts to reach her parents failed, the police report said.

Swicord said his department still has not heard from the girl’s mother or father.

But the parents have spoken to reporters.

“Call the police? Is that the first step?” Johnson’s mother, Constance Ruff, asked.

Johnson’s mother said she wondered if there was “any other kind of intervention” the school could have used to help her daughter.

“They don’t have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child,” said Salecia’s father, Earnest Johnson.

Regardless of age, said Swicord, “When a person is put in handcuffs it’s for their safety, it’s not a punishment.”

According to the police report, Johnson’s combative behavior included throwing furniture, including a small shelf, which struck the principal on the leg.

The child was also observed “biting the doorknob of the office and jumping on the paper shredder.”

The report stated Johnson also “attempted to break a glass frame above the shredder.”

“I noticed the damage to school property and possible assault of other students and staff,” the responding officer said in the report.

CNN reached out to Creekside Elementary for comment but was told the principal is assisting with statewide testing and was unable to respond.

Johnson’s mother said her daughter was suspended and cannot return to school until August.

The 6-year-old was initially charged as a juvenile with simple battery of a schoolteacher and criminal damage to property, but the police chief said at a news conference Tuesday the girl would not be charged because of her age.

“The student was never placed in a holding cell, or jail cell, and the student’s safety was the utmost importance,” Swicord said.

He added she will be monitored by social agencies. Police notified the Department of Family and Children’s Services about the incident, which is not the first of its kind in recent memory.

In 2005, video of police in St. Petersburg, Florida handcuffing an unruly 5-year-old girl made headlines.

In that case, the child could be seen pulling items form a bookcase, tearing papers from a bulletin board, climbing on a table and hitting a school official.

The child appeared to have calmed down by the time police officers arrive, but began screaming as two officers, a man and a woman, stood her up, leaned her toward a table and handcuffed her. She was later turned over to her mother, who came to the school.

CNN’s Rick Martin contributed to this report