Residents in a Georgia town are fiercely divided after a six-year-old girl’s temper tantrum landed her in handcuffs and later in a holding cell. Not surprisingly, the kindergartner’s mom and aunt are spitting mad, but police are defending their actions as well as their policy that allowed the response.

By all accounts, Salecia Johnson went ballistic earlier this week in her Creekside Elementary School classroom. What exactly prompted her anger is still unclear, but the little girl tore items off the wall and even chucked some furniture. Her teacher called the principal to handle the situation, but his authorial presence apparently didn’t help. She promptly tipped over the contents of a shelf on top of him. Without any idea what to do, he called the police. The responding officer tried to calm the girl down, but when she continued causing a scene, he handcuffed her and transported her to the station where she sat in a holding cell by herself.

When the girl’s mother and aunt arrived, she complained her wrists hurt from the handcuffs. Calling the situation “horrifying” and “devastating”, the family asked police to change their policy so no little children would be handcuffed again. The authorities refused, and according to The AP, later hit the six-year-old with assault and property damage charges.

Almost immediately after the arrest went public, numerous observers began weighing in on both sides of the argument. No one can seem to agree on whether the police were justified in detaining the little girl. On the one hand, it’s clear her actions were beyond a simple temper tantrum. A kid has to know destroying property is one hundred percent not okay, especially in a public environment. On the other hand, I get why a parent would be scared for her six-year-old daughter when she winds up in jail.

Ultimately, my only hope is that everyone learns to take a step back and calm down in these situations in the future. The girl needs to learn her emotions can’t bring out the worst in her, and the police officers need to find a better solution, perhaps putting the girl inside an empty classroom in order to calm down before receiving the lectures and punishments of a lifetime.

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