Taking on the responsibility to guard other people is both honorable and risky. Situations can be evaluated in favor of either the protector, the protected, or even an attacker themselves. These circumstances can become especially tricky when children are involved, which most often means emotionally driven parents are involved as well.
A particular case involving security, children and angry parents arose in New Jersey at the beginning of this month, bringing these very considerations to the forefront. A 7-year-old was reportedly throwing a tantrum when he was disallowed from going outside for recess. The child was said to have been throwing chairs and rolling on the ground when a security guard was called to restrain the boy. After placing the child in a chokehold, the security guard allegedly tried to help the boy after he started to hyperventilate.
That evening the 1st grader was taken to the hospital where he stayed overnight for observation. His mother, Karen McMillan, claims that the guard used excessive force on her son. The security guard has been put on paid leave and the school district is investigating the case. Spokesperson for the district Chanta Jackson declined to reveal the identity of the security guard, only to comment on his current leave.
Asbury Park Police Department, the Division of Youth and Family Services and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office are all now investigating the case. Jackson said, “We followed all policies and procedures as we would if any allegation such as this would arise. It’s not in our hands anymore.”
Security guards are bound by duty to conduct their business in a non-negligent manner, and just like anyone else are susceptible to personal injury claims. In the case of McMillan’s son, while the boy was hospitalized for one night, he did not have any injuries. So then, could it be argued that the security guard did not use excessive force?
Perhaps. In the case of the New Jersey boy, his mother claims the boy is afraid to return to school and is considering pulling the boy from the school district. McMillan claims that if the school had just called her to the scene instead of calling the security guard, she could have calmed him down and none of this would have happened.
Regardless if that is the case or not, excessive force can be challenging to evaluate, especially in cases involving children or when there are no quantifiable injuries. However in cases involving school children who attend on a regular basis, it can be helpful to learn if there are preexisting conditions or if other persons can be called to regulate the situation. In any case, security guards must do their best to protect the interests of everyone involved, especially themselves in order to maintain job security and avoid accusations of excessive force.