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Westerville police criticized for handcuffing children after school-bus fight

The Westerville Police Department handcuffed a 7-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother and locked them in a holding cell after a fight on a school bus in October.
Charges were filed after the two children became unruly, pushing the bus driver, swearing and threatening to punch the school principal, according to records describing the Oct. 19 incident.
The children’s mother, Tonya Mitchell, 29, thinks the police department and the Westerville school district discriminated against her children, wrongfully imprisoned them, used excessive force and violated their civil rights.
The experience terrified the children, causing nightmares and a fear of police officers, Mitchell’s attorney, Byron L. Potts, said yesterday at a news conference in his Downtown office.
Westerville Police Chief Joseph Morbitzer said he couldn’t comment on the arrests because Mitchell said she intends to sue the department and the school district.
“Just take a look at the facts of the case,” Morbitzer said when contacted after the news conference, adding that with very young children, “ your last course of action is an arrest.”
But a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said it’s difficult to determine what crime the children committed.
“Kids mouthing off, not sitting still, taking things off the shelf — does that sound like a crime?” said Carrie Davis, staff attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, when asked about the arrest.
“State law is pretty clear that you have to have a lawful basis to arrest them. You can’t just decide, ‘I don’t like the way they’re acting.’”more


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