The mother of an 8-year-old Colorado boy pepper-sprayed by police after he exploded into a violent rage says she believes that the school and police are partly to blame for allowing the incident to spiral out of control.
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“The school he was at was for children who have social and emotional behavioral issues,” the boy’s mom, Mandy, who is identified only by her first name to protect her family’s privacy, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Wednesday. “They [knew] what the kids are capable of before they took them on. And then they could have also called and asked for a special [police] unit who deals with children … in these crisis situations.”
The incident, which garnered national attention, began on Feb. 22 in Lakewood, Colo. — the same school district that became synonymous with school violence when two students at Columbine High School went on a bloody rampage in 1999 that left 15 dead. Aidan, a second-grader at the school, suddenly turned on his two teachers, who were alone with him in the classroom.
By the time police arrived, young Aidan was in a full-blown meltdown. He had ripped molding from the wall and tossed chairs and a TV cart around the classroom. He had grabbed a stick and chased his teachers into the office, where they locked themselves in. “I wanted to make something sharp,” he told NBC News. “I was so mad at them.” At one point, police allege, he warned his teachers, “If you come out, you’re gonna die!”
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Aidan said he does not remember what triggered his rage. “I don’t know,” he told Vieira. “It’s just the way my body goes.”
In fact, it was not the first time that Aidan’s anger issues had led to a confrontation with police. Twice before, authorities had to be summoned to “talk him down” after outbursts in school, his mother said. It is part of a pattern, she said, that seems to appear only when Aidan is in school, and only at particular times. “He’s a normal 8-year-old child at home with us, when he goes got see his dad in Wyoming, when he’s at soccer, swimming, [with the] baby sitter, he’s fine,” she told Vieira. “We don’t have these issues.” At school, however, things are different. “Usually it’s a transition period from a structured event, such as social studies or reading, into a free time and then going back into a structured event that he has a problem,” she said. Doctors and therapists have evaluated the boy, she said, and can find no cause for his periodic outbursts. “They all say there’s nothing mentally wrong with him.”Video: Kid wields stick, police use pepper spray (on this page)
She insists that his two previous scrapes with police ended without serious incident because the police who responded were specially trained to deal with children in crisis situations.
This time, however, the situation quickly escalated. Police insist that they ordered the boy to drop the stick and when he refused, they squirted him twice with pepper spray.
But Aidan told a slightly different version of the story to Vieira Wednesday. He said that he had already dropped the stick when police sprayed him. “The first time they said it, I just kind of did it slowly and then once it touched the ground, that’s when it happened.”
Police contend that they handled the matter appropriately, and the school district’s superintendent, Peg Kastberg, defended their actions. “They tried to de-escalate the behavior that occurred; [Aidan] was swinging a stick, he was using it as a weapon, he was violent, he was verbal, he was abusive,” she told NBC News.
No charges have been filed against the boy. He has since been enrolled in another school that specializes in children with behavioral problems. But the boy’s mother continues to insist that authorities could have handled the situation differently. She said she believes that police with proper training could have defused or at least stabilized the situation until she arrived. “I was 10 minutes away,” she said.
And proper training, she says, is what she would like to see come out of this situation. “I do want them to get training ... for crisis situations with children. I don’t think it’s right for an 8-year-old to get pepper-sprayed.”
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