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School Safety Bill Passes Florida House With Amendment Addressing Child Arrests

The unanimously passed amendment came after a 6-year-old was arrested in Orlando for misdemeanor battery.

Due to a controversial incident involving the arrest of a 6-year-old in Orlando, Florida state legislators amended a school safety bill last week to include a requirement that police departments implement policies to address the issue.

The amendment, proposed by Democratic House minority leader Kionne McGhee of Miami, requires departments to have policies regarding how officers handle the arrest of children under the age of 10. It was a rare moment of a Democratic amendment being accepted onto a Republican-led bill in the late stages before its passage, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

Body camera footage from the arrest of 6-year-old Kaia Rolle in February showed her being arrested, cuffed and led to a police car as she cried for help. Earlier that afternoon, Rolle had kicked and punched three school employees as she threw a tantrum. When police officers arrived to arrest her, she was already calm, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

Prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor battery charge against Rolle the next day, and the Orlando Police Department said the arresting officer violated agency policy for arresting children younger than 12. Officers are required to acquire supervisor approval before doing so, which the officer did not get.

Although the officer was eventually fired days after the incident, he did not commit an illegal act because there is no minimum age for arrest set by Florida law. While the House school safety bill, which passed unanimously, does not go so far as to ban arrests of young children, it does require all departments to establish rules for arresting kids under 10.

“We are stewards of your future,” McGhee said to Rolle, who was present in the chamber, while making a speech on the House floor last week. “We do not believe in criminalizing childhood tantrums ... just know your call for help has been answered.”

It’s not yet clear if the child arrest amendment will be passed in the Senate version of the bill, since it stalled in committee, according to the TB Times. In addition, the school safety bill will allow law enforcement to investigate people who submit purposefully false tips through the school security tipline and adds a stricter process for school superintendents to lose pay if their district does not follow safety regulations.

Districts and charter schools must also develop reunification plans for parents and children under the bill, and police and security officers must receive mental health training.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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