A six-year-old girl was arrested, handcuffed, and fingerprinted after she kicked someone at her charter school in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday. The first grader, who is African American, was charged with battery and taken to a juvenile detention center, where she had a mugshot taken, WKMG reported.
The child’s grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, told WKMG that she was acting out in class due to lack of sleep caused by a medical condition and was sent to the office, where a staff member grabbed her wrists. That’s when she lashed out and kicked, Ms. Kirkland said.
Dennis Turner, the school resource officer who arrested the young girl, has been suspended during an internal investigation, according to Orlando police chief Orlando Rolón. Officer Turner also arrested an 8-year-old child in a separate incident the same day.
Departmental policy requires officers to get a supervisor’s approval when arresting anyone under age 12, but Turner failed to get approval for either arrest. The New York Times reported that Officer Turner was charged with aggravated child abuse in 1998 in connection with his 7-year-old son and was reprimanded in 2016 for using excessive force after stunning a man five times with a Taser during an arrest.
Nationally, schools with school resource officers are 2.51 times more likely to refer students to law enforcement and 3.12 times more likely to arrest students compared to schools without officers, the data show.
Data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows that Black students are disproportionately punished in school. Black students made up 15 percent of total student enrollment during the 2015-2016 school year, but comprised 31 percent of the students referred to law enforcement or subjected to school-related arrests.
An analysis of data from the 2013-2014 school year showed that Black students were 3.49 times more likely to be arrested at school than white students, and more than twice as likely to be referred to law enforcement. Thirteen Southern states were responsible for half of all Black student suspensions and expulsions from public schools in the United States in 2011-2012.
Studies have shown that African American students are more likely to be suspended or expelled when teachers or officials have discretion to determine their punishment, such as when a student is deemed disrespectful or violates a dress code. Children of color too often are presumed guilty and dangerous by teachers, officials, and school resource officers.