Debbie Kiroff told CBC Toronto that her eight-year-old son is a normal boy in many ways; he enjoys playing with Legos, cooking and swimming. However, he also has some behavioral issues and a serious learning disability. She wasn’t terribly surprised when the principal of Holland Landing Public School called her on the first day of school on September 5 to report that his behavior was “escalating.” He likes to run to release energy, she says, and he’s fond of escaping to a frog pond on the school grounds.
However, she was shocked by what happened next. Following an argument with another student over who could use a computer, the principal said he ran around and began climbing unspecified structures while holding a ruler. The principal asked her to come pick her son up, but Kiroff couldn’t leave work immediately and sent her adult daughter to pick him up instead.
By the time her daughter arrived, the boy was in the back of a police car. He was brought to Southlake Regional Health Centre, where Kiroff was forced to wait for 15 to 20 minutes before she could even go inside and see her son.
Before being allowed to enter, she says that a woman working at the hospital came to tell her that her son was out of control and that they had to restrain him and inject him with a sedative.
Kiroff said that she tried to remain calm despite seething inside and asked if they needed her consent for that. She was told that parental consent was not needed if the hospital felt there was an extreme safety concern. She asked what he was doing that prompted them to take such an extreme measure and was told that he was “kicking, screaming and yelling.” While these behaviors certainly have all the markings of a temper tantrum and are not pleasant to witness, it’s hardly an emergency situation worthy of needles and pharmaceuticals.
Her son later told her that hospital workers said they’d take his restraints off of him one at a time if he calmed down, but they ended up injecting him instead. He was kept for around an hour and a half in restraints before being released, and he stumbled back to the car. He was not allowed to go back to school until after his mother could meet with the principal on September 15. Kiroff said the incident has left her son emotionally scarred.
It’s hard to believe that a school or a hospital would allow such a young boy to be forcibly injected with a powerful sedative, particularly when his behavior does not seem much worse than an extreme temper tantrum. The fact that it was done without parental consent only makes the situation even more infuriating.
A statement by the hospital said: "No one wants to use restraints; it is a last measure and is done only in dire situations deemed an 'emergency.' In an 'emergency' situation, our concern for our patient determines how long a restraint is used."
It’s too bad their concern for the patient didn’t extend to his long-term emotional well-being. For an eight-year-old-boy, being removed from school by police, brought to the hospital, strapped to a gurney and injected with drugs is pretty much the worst possible first day imaginable and something he is unlikely to ever forget. The experience could well affect him for the rest of his life and cause him to act out even more in the future. It’s hard to imagine how any of the adults involved believed this was the best way to handle the situation, and all parents who send their children to public schools need to be aware that this could happen to their child without their consent.