A 10-year-old boy with autism was handcuffed and arrested by police outside of Cypress Elementary School in Kissimmee, Florida last week. The child, Ryan Maldonado, is reportedly now afraid to return to school.
The incident started when Maldonado had a meltdown in class. His mother, Elaine Maldonado, says Ryan became frustrated when he struggled to follow class orders. He allegedly picked up a pair of scissors and started threatening to hurt himself.
School administrators took Ryan out of class and called police. After calling police, they called Ryan's father, Moses Maldonado. Maldonado arrived at the school 10 minutes before police officers did, but school administrators refused to release Ryan into his custody.
Maldonado was powerless as he watched officers drag his screaming son out of the school. Once outside, the officers handcuffed Ryan and put him face down on the trunk of a "hot" squad car. The officers said in their police report that they detained Ryan like this in order to protect themselves from him. Next, officers told Maldonado that they planned to invoke Florida's Baker Act on Ryan.
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Maldonado took a picture of his son on the back of the police car. Here it is:
The Baker Act, formally known as the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, allows for the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual. Maldonado was forced to watch as his son was taken away in the back of a police car.
The Maldonados report that Ryan is now back in their custody. He was scarred by the incident, though, and is afraid of going back to school.
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“He doesn’t want to return to school. And he continues to repeat everything he heard administration and law enforcement talk about – Baker Act etc,” Ryan's mother told the Free Though Project.
The Maldonados' main problem with the incident is that Mr. Maldonado was not granted custody of Ryan upon arriving at the school – especially since he arrived before police officers did. Because of this, the family plans to take legal action against the school on claims that administrators violated their parental rights.