Miami police: 7-year-old arrested for punching teacher

Photo courtesy Mercy Alvarez, via WSVN

School district officials in Florida say they followed standard protocol last week when a 7-year-old boy was placed in handcuffs and removed from his school after he punched his teacher repeatedly in the back, kicked her and grabbed her hair.

The incident began Thursday when a teacher at the Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami told the first-grader to stop playing with his food in the cafeteria. When the child refused to stop, he was taken from the cafeteria, according to an incident report from a Miami-Dade County Public Schools police officer Munick Soriano.

The report says the boy hit the teacher repeatedly in the back, as they were in a hallway outside the cafeteria. The child continued punching and kicking the teacher until they both fell on the ground.

Eventually the boy was hospitalized briefly at Miami Children's Hospital under the Florida Mental Health Act, based on behavioral criteria that indicated he could pose a threat to himself or others, school district officials said.

The child's mother, Mercy Alvarez, said her son doesn't have a mental disorder. Instead, she called her son's arrest "police abuse." 

"If my child wasn't aggressive anymore when we got there, like they were saying he was before, why take such extreme measures?" she said.

Alvarez said her child didn't show aggressive behavior at home. She says she is looking into why her child only began having problems there since the school year started. She says that in previous years he got good grades, participated in other activities and showed good conduct. 

"This is too much for a boy that age to go through. It can't be a normal procedure," she said.

The Associated Press does not typically identify minors who have been arrested but is naming the child's mother because she has spoken openly on social media and to newspaper reporters about the case.

The officer wrote that another teacher and several students witnessed the incident, which was also captured on the school's surveillance camera. The boy's parents were notified and came to the school, the report said.

The child's father agreed with school officials that the child should be taken to a mental health facility, the report said. But the mother disagreed, telling officials nothing is wrong with her son. Alvarez said the officer was threatening to take the child to jail if they didn't agree for him to be taken to a mental health facility for an evaluation. 

The teacher told the officer her back was hurting after the incident but she didn't have any visible injuries. She told officials she intends to press charges, the report said.

Ian Moffett, the school district's police chief, said in a statement that it was "rare for students this young to be Baker Acted," referring to a Florida law that allows police and certain other officials to initiate an involuntary institutionalization for a psychological evaluation.

"However this action was warranted to prevent his erratic and violent behavior from bringing further harm to others or himself," the statement said.

Moffett said the officer followed standard operating procedures in taking the child to the hospital. However, the district's Professional Compliance Unit is investigating the incident.