Police Arrest a 6-year Old in an Orlando School

Boy arrested at schoolParents of small children often worry about their safety when they’re at school, fearing they could get bullied by other students. What they usually don’t worry about is whether their children have reason to be afraid of something else: law enforcement.  So it shocked more than a few parents to watch video images on their local news station of a 6-year-old girl crying as police placed her in hand restraints. The image of the kid crying “Help me, help me, please!” as officers continued to arrest her, outraged many. The incident has led to changes in how grade-school children should be treated by law enforcement.

Why Did Orlando Police Arrest a Grade School Student?

It was the body cam footage of the 6-year-old girl getting arrested at the Orlando charter school she was attending that sparked outrage. The footage had been released to the local news media by the attorney representing the child’s family. According to the police report, the young girl, a first-grader at the charter school, had a tantrum earlier in the day and had kicked and punched three school employees. 

The video footage angered many because it showed that by the time two officers arrived at the school, the child had calmed down. The officers nevertheless made a decision to arrest her on a misdemeanor battery charge. A school staff member had been reading to the child, then told the girl that she had to go with the officers and that her grandmother would pick her up later.

The next thing the video shows is the girl starting to cry as one of the officers puts zip ties on her wrists. “I don’t want to go to the police car,” the girl tells the officer, as she starts begging to be let go.

Officials at the school would later state that they had not wanted to press charges against the child or have her arrested. 

What Was the Reaction to the Video?

It wasn’t just the community that felt the actions of the arresting officer were out of line. A week after the arrest, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon announced that the officer who arrested the girl and placed her in zip ties had been fired.  Rolon said he’d been shocked by the officer’s actions and apologized directly to the girl’s family. He also said “As a grandfather of three children less than 11 years old, I can only imagine how traumatic this was for everyone involved. We were all appalled.”

The police chief also released a statement noting that measures had been taken to ensure an arrest like this wouldn’t happen again. That includes requiring officers to get approval from the Deputy Chief before arresting any juvenile under the age of 12.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who represents Orange and Osceola counties in Florida, announced that she wouldn’t be pursuing charges against the 6-year-old girl. In addition, Florida state Sen. Randolph Bicoy introduced a bill prohibiting a child under the age of 12 from being arrested. 

The child’s grandmother has said she hopes that after people watch the footage of her granddaughter’s arrest, they’ll push for a similar change in Florida law, so 12 becomes the minimum age for an arrest.  The grandmother also told the Orlando area news media that her granddaughter suffers from a sleep disorder, which is why she had some behavioral issues.

Orlando isn’t alone in revisiting its approach to arresting children. Police in the District of Columbia are changing the way they deal with underage suspects. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham announced in January that while it used to be the default to handcuff a juvenile, his officers will no longer place handcuffs on juveniles aged 12 and under unless the child presents a danger to themselves or others.

D.C. police even launched a new initiative, Interacting With Juveniles, that allows for more discretion in handcuffing teens ages 13 to 17, depending on what they’re accused of doing. Instead of arresting kids at the scene of an incident, officers can release the child to a parent instead. As Newsham noted, this was part of an effort to help build trust with the community.

It’s also important to recognize that in Florida, the juvenile justice system is designed to protect society by rehabilitating, rather than punishing, children accused of committing crimes. Children facing charges have many of the same rights as an adult charged with a crime. If your child has been arrested, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you defend the child’s rights.

Protect Your Child With an Orlando Juvenile Defense Attorney

Help defend your child’s rights and protect their future by hiring a juvenile defense attorney with a proven track record of success. The Umansky Law Firm is here to provide knowledgeable attorneys to represent your child and your family’s best interests. With more than 100 years of combined experience, we take our skills as former state prosecutors and work toward the best possible outcome and long term well-being of your child. Many of our attorneys are parents, and we can appreciate the level of distress and frustration you’re enduring.

Contact our office online or by phone at (407) 890-0336 to receive a free consultation and learn what your next best steps are in your Florida juvenile court case.