Police Handcuff 5-Year-Old After Tantrum

ByABC News
April 22, 2005, 1:21 PM

April 22, 2005 -- -- The videotaped altercation with a 5-year-old girl who was hauled off in handcuffs following an extended tantrum at her St. Petersburg, Fla., school has led to questions about whether the police overreacted.

The incident occurred March 14, and was captured on videotape because Fairmount Park Elementary School teacher Christina Ottersbach had set up a camcorder in her classroom. She wanted to record herself teaching so she could study her methods and learn how to improve, district officials told the St. Petersburg Times.

She ended up recording nearly a half-hour of video showing the girl alternately lashing out and quietly ignoring her teachers' instructions.

The footage starts in Ottersbach's classroom, where assistant principal Nicole Dibenedetto and teacher Patti Tsaousis were trying to calm the girl down and get her to clean up a mess that she had made.

Ottersbach is not in the room, having pulled her other students out of the classroom because of the girl's unseen outburst, leaving just the three.

"This is your mess to clean up. We need you to stop. You may not do this," Dibenedetto patiently but firmly told the girl, who stubbornly refused.

Eventually, the girl did start cleaning up the mess, but then she refused to leave the room. Only when Dibenedetto and Tsaousis asked her to make a choice before they counted to five did she finally leave with them.

Things evidently did not improve after that, however. The tape cuts to Dibenedetto's office, which has been trashed, apparently by the girl. She is seen ripping papers off the wall and refusing Dibenedetto's requests that she stay seated in a chair.

The girl even becomes violent at that point, taking numerous swings at Dibenedetto, who only puts her hands up to block the girl's punches.

The only other time the assistant principal touches the girl is when the child twice climbs onto a table, and the woman lifts her off and puts her back on the floor, on her feet.