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September 2011



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By Bill Johnson
Denver Post Columnist


Donald and Raiko Johnson detest what happened to their son. They still do not understand it fully, yet they came to me to speak out about it, to maybe prevent another autistic or special-needs child from also ending up in handcuffs. The Johnsons​‘ son, the oldest of their three, is 9 years old. He was born prematurely at 26 weeks, and in 2009 was diagnosed with autism. He was on the school bus returning to his parents’ Green Valley Ranch home last May 4. He is a little guy, about 4-foot-2 and 50 pounds, so every day on the bus he wears a harness that secures him to the seat, much like a safety belt. On this day, though, he had either slipped out of it, or someone hadn’t put him in it. Though the Johnsons, no relation to me, live 10 to 15 minutes from the school, the boy had been on the bus for nearly 45 minutes. According to the Denver police report, the boy began using profane language and was throwing things before he started running up and down the aisle. Finally, he kicked in the shin the male paraprofessional who was on the bus to control such outbursts.
The driver, less than a mile from the boy’s home, turned the bus around and drove back to Maxwell Elementary School. There, the boy was met by school security, who put him in handcuffs. “When I arrived, he was seated in a chair, handcuffed, with security, Denver police, the principal, teachers — about 10 people in all,” Raiko Johnson recalled. “He was so scared.” Denver police ultimately decided to place him on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, and transported the boy, his hands cuffed behind his back, to Children’s Hospital Colorado. When Donald and Raiko Johnson arrived, attendants were attempting to take their son’s blood pressure, but they couldn’t get a reading.
Read in Full:http://www.denverpost.com/billjohnson/ci_18696227

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