Things That Matter

A Florida School Resource Officer Has Been Fired For Putting Two 6-Year-Old Children In Handcuffs

An Orlando, Florida police offer was fired after arresting two 6-year-old black children at school. The officer suspected the two 6-year-old committed “misdemeanor battery.” In both incidents, the officer handcuffed the first graders with zip ties. The firing comes after public outcries of support for the 6-year-old girl, who many felt was grotesquely mistreated by the police officer. To anyone who understands institutional racism and the school-to-prison pipeline, this comes as no surprise. 

The school-to-prison pipeline is the path through which unfair treatment of adolescents leads to involvement in the criminal justice system. However, efforts to correct this problem often fail to include black girls, who are six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white counterparts,” writes Mackenzie Chakra for American Progress.

Research shows that black children are perceived as less innocent than white children, and as early as age 5 black girls are viewed as older than white girls of the same age. Black children are 10 times more likely to face discipline for typical childhood behavior like tantrums or class disruptions. 

Fortunately, this is a rare case where the two children were not fully processed and eaten up by the system. 

How does a 6-year-old commit misdemeanor battery? 

WFTV spoke to Meralyn Kirkland the 6-year-old’s grandmother. Kirkland says that her daughter has sleep apnea and is prone to temper tantrums because she is exhausted a lot of the time. Teachers are aware of the girl’s condition. However, one day the girl kicked a staff member which prompted police intervention. I am sure the kick hurt a lot and the full-grown adult is seriously injured (not). 

The 6-year-old was arrested and brought to a Juvenile Assessment Center where Kirkland discovered her granddaughter had been arrested for battery. 

“I asked them for her, and they told me she was currently in process of being fingerprinted. And I think when they said fingerprinted is when it hit home to me. And I’m, like, fingerprinted? And they said yes, and they escorted me into an office and on the desk in that officer were two mugshot pictures of my 6-year-old granddaughter,” Kirkland said.

When Orlando police found out the officer did not get his supervisor’s approval for arresting the girl, they say they stopped the little one from being fully processed. However, Kirkland is less convinced because she has paperwork that requires her granddaughter to appear in court for the battery charge. Reporters are unsure of the events that led to the arrest of the second child on the same day. 

The officer is fired

Initially, the officer was arrested, but he has now been fired. Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said the situation made him “sick to his stomach.” 

“When I first learned about this, we were all appalled and we could not fathom the idea of a 6-year-old being put in the back of a police car,” Rolón said at a news conference. “It’s still shocking to us. To have something like this happen was completely and totally a surprise to all of us.”

Department officials claim that the resource officer has a strict policy that prohibits officers from arresting children under the age of 12 without approval from their manager. 

“It was clear today when I came into work that there was no other remedy than to terminate this officer,” Rolón said.

The resource officer in question does not have a clean record himself, in 1998 he was charged with aggravated child abuse after bruises and welts were discovered on his 7-year-old son. He was also subjected to four internal investigations (two of which were for excessive force as recent as 2016), and in another incident, the resource officer threatened the husband of a woman he had been dating. So it is really cool of this school to have this man around children and for the police force to have employed him for years (not). 

Charges dropped against 6-year-old 

State Attorney for Orange and Osceola counties Aramis Ayala said she had no intention of prosecuting either 6-year-old.  

“I can assure you that there will be no criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor battery for these elementary children in my name or on my watch,” Ayala said. “Unlike some, I will not presume guilt or dangerousness of a child based on any demographic.”

Ayala hopes to stop the school to prison pipeline where it starts by choosing not to prosecute literal children for misbehaving at school. 

“We must explore better options as a state. We must raise the expectations of how we respond in difficult situations,” Ayala said. “This is not a reflection on the children, but more of a reflection of a broken system that is in need of reform. It’s time to address juvenile legislation in ways that better protect the interests of children and their development.”

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