Whether it was through school assemblies where they spread the D.A.R.E. agenda, or a simple take-your-child-to-work-day presentation, school resource officers (SROs) have been a constant presence in American schools.
However, it was a shock when grandmother Meralyn Kirkland received a call on Thursday afternoon reporting that her 6-year-old granddaughter, Kaia Rolle, had been arrested by one of these friendly officers for throwing a tantrum in class.
Last week, two 6-year-old children, a boy and a girl, in Orlando found themselves in handcuffs by the hands of SRO Dennis Turner, who had gone ahead and ignored the charter school’s policy that requires a supervisor’s approval before arresting minors under the age of 12.
While the police refused to disclose the identities of the two children, they did release the charges Turner pressed and they corrected the report, stating that the young boy had been 8 years old, still under the age of 12, nonetheless.
Turner had charged both children with misdemeanor battery in separate events, which by Florida law, is considered a first-degree misdemeanor that can result in up to a year in jail or a probationary period lasting a year at most, that is, in the adult world.
Maybe a simple “and she’s in time out,” or even “and she’s talking to the principal,” would have been normal, but to receive an actual criminal offense at the age of six is preposterous.
While kicking another student may raise red flags to a parent or guardian, this behavior is totally normal among kids. According to an article by Health Day, tantrums are normal behaviors from young kids, as many times they “throw tantrums for the same reasons they did as toddlers: because they're exhausted, hungry, or scared.”
But even then, it was confirmed that Kaia had not kicked another student: in fact, the tantrum was thrown “because her sleep apnea prevented her from getting enough rest the night before” as Kirkland stated. Kaia had been sent to the principal's office to talk it over, “where a school staffer tried to grab Kaia’s wrists to calm her down — prompting her to kick back.”
“She has a medical condition that we’re working on getting resolved,” Kirkland said she told Turner. “So he says, ‘What medical condition?’ I said, ‘She has a sleep disorder, sleep apnea.’ He says, ‘Well, I have sleep apnea and I don’t behave like that.’”
The charges have since been dropped, which state attorney Aramis D. Ayala said Monday that “her office never intended to prosecute” anyways.
It was also revealed that in Turner's 23 years of work in the field had once been “arrested and charged with abusing his 7-year-old son,” which raises the question of the credibility for how the vetting system for SROs work.
Turner was said to have gotten a written reprimand and to have gotten disciplined for his past actions, but even then, he should not have ended up primarily working with kids.
In today’s day and age, police officers already get a bad rep for police brutality; and while this may not have been direct physical abuse, this traumatic event may emotionally scar the kids.
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón stated that “As a grandfather of three children less than 11 years old, I can only imagine how traumatic this was for everyone involved,” after apologizing, saying “On behalf of myself and the entire Orlando Police Department, I apologize to the children involved and their families,” at a news conference on Monday.