In 2015 a Flint police officer assigned to work at an elementary school handcuffed Cameron McCadden, a seven-year-old child with a disability, when he did not immediately respond to the officer’s instruction. Cameron was not a threat to himself or others and was handcuffed for nearly an hour solely on account of his disability-related behavior. The ACLU made extensive attempts to work with Flint to enact policy changes to ensure that no other schoolchildren with disabilities were subjected to abusive treatment Cameron experienced, and we established an alliance with community groups calling for police officers to withdraw from elementary schools. In 2018, after negotiations with the city proved unsuccessful, we filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Flint and the local chamber of commerce that operated the after-school program where the handcuffing occurred. In 2019 Judge Denise Page Hood denied the city’s motion to dismiss. In August 2020 the case was settled. In addition to a trust for funds to address Cameron’s needs, policy changes were adopted that include, among other things, no use of restraints on children when there is no danger or threat; avoidance of use of police officers in school disciplinary matters; use of the lowest level of enforcement for elementary school-aged children; and special training in de-escalation, implicit bias, disabilities and other subjects relevant to proper responses in child disciplinary matters.
(McCadden v. City of Flint; ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Mark P. Fancher and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorneys Jonathan Marko, Mark Finnegan, and Denise Heberle; National ACLU Attorneys Susan Mizner, West Resendes, and Claudia Center.)
Performance Cancelled Because Actors Have Down Syndrome. DisArt is a disability arts and culture organization that scheduled a series of public performances in Grand Rapids during the Art Prize festival. One of the events was a drag show performed by local actors alongside Drag Syndrome, a group of performers from the U.K. who are living with Down Syndrome. The owner of the performance venue, local business and political figure Peter Meijer, cancelled the drag show performance, questioning whether the performers had the capacity to make their own decisions and stating that persons with disabilities are “special souls” and “should be protected.” DisArt then presented Meijer with assurances that the performers did have the capacity to understand and consent to their performances, but Meijer refused to reconsider his position. In September 2019 the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint on DisArt’s behalf with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and sex. (ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan.)