Special Needs Student Roughed Up in Avoidable Incident

autism law enforcement


A Sarasota police officer has been fired for roughing up a special needs student on a school bus following an incident back in December.  The video tape, which can be viewed below, shows Deputy Mark Perrin violently yanking a 17-year-old special needs student out of her seat and handcuffing her while she is still screaming.  Perrin also yells profanities at the girl and threatens to use his tazer during the incident.

Although the young girl’s condition has not yet been disclosed, law enforcement officers across the county have a history of unfortunate incidents with autistic individuals such as this.  Police work is incredibly stressful and officers have to put up with a lot on a daily basis, leaving some prone to short tempers. However, that does not excuse the actions of this officer. With proper training and the ability to identify those with special needs before an escalation of force takes place, less incidents like these are likely to occur.

Dennis Debbaudt is the father of a child with autism and has an excellent organization by the name of Autism Risk and Safety Management.  Debbaudt is an ex-law enforcement officer and travels the country training police officers and law enforcement agencies on the proper way of handling and diffusing situations involving individuals with autism and other special needs.  We interviewed Dennis several years ago about his training programs and he has always been way ahead of the curve on this issue, even authoring a book on this subject back in 1992.

Had Officer Perrin gone through Mr. Debbaudt’s training program, there’s a good chance he’d still have his job today.

With autism rates at such high levels, there’s a good chance most law enforcement officials are going to encounter something like this during the course of their careers.  Proper training and awareness will be the difference between an embarrassing situation for the department and officer(s) involved, or the incident being diffused in the proper way.

For more information on Autism Risk and Safety Management or to arrange a training event for your law enforcement agency, visit http://www.autismriskmanagement.com . 

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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