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Handcuffs in Hallways: Why are young students in California getting arrested?

Handcuffs in Hallways: Why are young students in California getting arrested?
Handcuffs in Hallways: Why are young students in California getting arrested? 08:49

In one school year, police arrested hundreds of elementary and middle school students in California. That's far less than the national average.

But the state is above average when it comes to the chances of police arresting Black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities.

The crisis for one 11-year-old Black student with disabilities began one day before Riverside County sheriff's deputies came to his classroom at Landmark Middle School.

Their report says they were there to investigate allegations of the child throwing a rock at a male and then two rocks at a female school staffer. One of them hit her hand, and she was not injured.

The next day, the child, who we'll call "C.B." refuses to go to the principal's office for questioning. Less than a minute later, a struggle begins.

"They slammed his head to the floor," said "W.B.," C.B.'s father. "Officer at least three times his size pressed his neck down with the officer's knee on his neck and back. One officer was twisting his arms."

Deputies then slap handcuffs on those arms. And the struggle continues for a full six minutes.

Deputies reported that they handcuffed and detained his son after C.B. kicked one and then attempted to kick another.

Should they have handcuffed him?

"No, they shouldn't have handcuffed him.  He's only 70 pounds," said W.B. "Any trained police officer, only one of them should've been able to handle a 70-pound kid."

Does any child that small need to be handcuffed?

"Yes," said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. Bianco says no one can fairly assess that need with only one piece of video, one snapshot, one perspective.

Bianco says he's seen enough to know what happened here.

"On that video I saw nothing that would cause me as the sheriff, or the leader of deputies, that could've been handling that that would've caused me an issue and said, 'Oh my gosh, what are you doing?'" said Bianco.

They and other agencies are, of course, doing policing across the entire Southland.

Our CBS News analysis of the most current U.S. Department of Education data shows that during the 2017-18 school year, schools sent students to police 5,913 times and arrested 318 children in grades 8 and below.

The vast majority of those were not in the core of the city of Los Angeles, where police arrested 119 students at L.A. Unified School District schools, but in the surrounding suburbs, where police arrested even more: 199 students.

In fact, the schools that tied with the highest number of arrests -- 12 on each of their campuses -- were suburban Marco Forster Middle School in San Juan Capistrano, McFadden Intermediate in Santa Ana, and La Mesa Junior High in Santa Clarita.

Closer to the case in Riverside County, police arrested nine students, and were called in a total of 1,747 times. And, more specifically, at Landmark Middle School, where this case happened, police were involved 208 times.

Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora said, "Anytime that that's a response, we need to address it. We need to look into why."

Is there a problem at that school?

"No," said Kedziora.

Kedziora refuses to speak about C.B.'s incident recorded on camera at his school.

"Because there's litigation that we're involved in," said Kedziora.

The family has filed suit against Kedziora and the district alleging excessive force, battery, assault and negligence, saying the police presence there has a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities and Black students.

"He's a African American disabled student who has to navigate the world and school in that way," said attorney Anna Rivera.

Was that a factor?

"Most definitely," said Rivera. "The statistics show he's at much greater risk of being a recipient of this kind of harsh discipline because of those factors."

Nationally the data does show police are nearly three and a half times more likely to arrest Black children, one and a half times more likely to arrest Hispanic students, and more than three times as likely to arrest students with disabilities.

In California, most of those odds are even higher: Police are four times more likely to arrest Black students, nearly two times more likely to arrest Hispanic students, and more than three times as likely to arrest kids with disabilities.

And for a child that is both Black and disabled, like C.B., Rivera claims police are 11 times more likely to make an arrest.

The indisputable fact is C.B. was restrained and detained. And no matter what the reasons or the chances or the motivations were, the family believes their son should never have had to learn about these handcuffs in these hallways.

"That kind of emotional trauma is going to stick with him for the rest of his life," said W.B.

The 2019 case at Landmark Middle School is still being litigated. The school district says that the 11-year-old was never actually charged or arrested. The district says they are constantly working to improve all interactions with authorities, and says there was not a single arrest or police referral in the district in the 2020-21 school year, and no arrests this year.

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