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 Fancher and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorneys Jonathan Marko, Mark Finnegan and Denise Heberle; National ACLU Attorneys Susan Mizner and Claudia Center.)

Read more case background.