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Dallas Morning News
Principal, psychologist on leave after incident that involved police
12:00 AM CST on Saturday, November 19, 2005
A west Phoenix elementary school principal and school psychologist were placed on paid leave following an incident involving an 8-year-old girl allegedly handcuffed in her classroom by police, school officials said.
According to police, the incident started Tuesday morning while officers were conducting a welfare check on the third-grader. Sgt. Lauri Williams said the girl was reportedly running down the middle of a street and was almost hit by a car.
Sgt. Williams confirmed that the girl was brought to class at Lakeview Elementary School by an officer and was handcuffed “at some point.” Sgt. Williams said Friday that she didn’t have additional details about the incident.
A school district spokeswoman, Karyn Morse, said school officials were conducting an investigation and trying to determine exactly what took place in the classroom once the girl arrived.”It raises concern,” Ms. Morse said of reports on how the girl was restrained.
Eight-year-old Taylor Davis, who said she was in the classroom at the time, described the incident as scary and confusing for the other students.
“I was just working and I heard her screaming. Then they started handcuffing her on her legs and on her arms,” Taylor said, adding that she saw officials put their hand over the girl’s mouth to quiet her down. “I felt kinda sad … cause I didn’t want her to go to jail or get hurt or anything.”
While Ms. Morse wouldn’t provide details about what happened in the classroom, she said the girl’s mother followed police to the school, briefly leaving only to bring back an antidepressant medication prescribed for the girl.
“There’s background information on this student going through some separation anxiety dealing with issues in the home,” Ms. Morse said. “So at the request of the psychologist, the mother was not in the classroom.”
Ms. Morse said the medication was administered by the school principal and psychologist in the classroom.The psychologist, Burke Bretzing, declined to comment, saying he was told by school officials not to publicly talk about it because an investigation was ongoing.A woman who answered the phone at principal Cherri Rifenburg’s home said the same thing.
The girl remained at school for the rest of the day after the incident, Ms. Morse said, and didn’t appear to have been physically harmed.Nonetheless, other parents were concerned, especially by the fact that students said they were told not to talk about what happened.
“They said that it is [the girl’s] business,” Taylor said.Her mother, Tami Davis, said she was appalled when her daughter relayed what she saw.
“My daughter was actually afraid to tell us,” Ms. Davis said. “It’s horrifying.”School officials and police planned to hold a meeting with parents Friday night at the school to answer questions, Ms. Morse said.