News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, April 27, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A mom is upset after her son was handcuffed at school. It all started over a request to go to the bathroom during class, sending that student to the principal's office.
His mother says he has a doctor's note allowing him to go to the bathroom for medical reasons, so when he was turned down, that is when it all started.
Brandon Balentine, 11, is now at home after being suspended for five days, but it was a call from Brandon's father that left Jennifer Balentine in shock.
"He says, 'You are not going to believe this.' I said, 'What?' He says, 'When I got to the school, they had Brandon in handcuffs.'"
This happened after Brandon walked out of class to go to the bathroom, which landed him in the principal's office.
"I really had to go, so I went to go use the restroom and I came back and she said you shouldn't have done that, you are going to get in trouble. She's going to send me somewhere so I got angry," said Brandon, who is a fifth grader at Hephzibah Elementary School.
School officers were called to the school. When he tried to walk out of the office, they handcuffed him.
"My dad works in law enforcement so I pretty much know what a criminal or something is and I did feel like a criminal, like he was trying to arrest me or something," he said.
Brandon is in the gifted program. You may remember he appeared as a First Time Forecaster on our morning show two years ago.
"It's handcuffs; handcuffs are reserved for criminals. They are not reserved for children," Balentine said.
So, we took her concerns to Richmond County school safety officers.
"We do not use handcuffs until we absolutely have to for any student," said Chief Pat Clayton.
This is if they feel the student could harm someone or themselves.
"As a parent myself, I can understand their concern, but there are situations where we have to do it," he said.
As for Brandon, he just wants answers.
"I just want to know why they put me in handcuffs, I mean, there was really no good reason," he said.
School safety officers could not comment on the specifics, but they say a preliminary investigation shows they had a very good reason.
Brandon's mother plans to speak with an attorney Monday and the school on Tuesday.
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