A 6-year-old girl in Florida was arrested after she threw a tantrum in her Florida classroom.
The girl’s grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, said the girl suffers from sleep apnea and was sleep deprived when she threw the tantrum, and shouldn’t have been arrested. She told NBC affiliate WFLA-TV that she was told of the arrest after the fact.
“What do you mean she was arrested, he said ‘there was an incident and she kicked somebody and she is being charged and she is on her way,’” Kirkland told the outlet.
She said police officers were not persuaded by her granddaughter’s medical condition.
“She has a medical condition that we are working on getting resolved and he says, ‘what medical condition, she has a sleep disorder, sleep apnea,’ and he says, ‘well I have sleep apnea and I don’t behave like that,” Kirkland told WFLA.
The outlet reported that Kirkland’s granddaughter Kaia, a first grader at Lucious and Emma Nixon Elementary charter school, was handcuffed and taken to the police station in a squad car to be fingerprinted and have her mug shot taken.
“They told us we had to wait a few minutes because Kaia was being fingerprinted, and when she said fingerprinted it hit me like a ton of bricks,” Kirkland told WFLA. “No six-year-old child should be able to tell somebody that they had handcuffs on them and they were riding in the back of a police car and taken to a juvenile center to be fingerprinted, mug shot.”
Kirkland added that Kaia “was charged with battery!” because she kicked a staff member at her school during her tantrum. Kirkland told Click Orlando that Kaia was sent to the head office after throwing a tantrum. Once there, a staff member tried to calm her down by grabbing her wrists, which is when Kaia kicked the staff member.
Kaia said Friday that she “felt sad that my grandma was sad, and I really missed her.”
The outlet also reported that another child at the school, an 8-year-old, was also arrested that day. Orlando Police Department officials told Click Orlando that department policy dictates school resource officers must seek watch commander approval before arresting children under the age of 12, but this particular officer did not do that in either case. That officer, Dennis Turner, is now facing an internal investigation for the arrests.
Kirkland told the outlet that Kaia has an upcoming court date related to her arrest.
Kaia is not the only Florida child whose arrest caused national outrage. In 2017, a 10-year-old boy with autism was arrested after an outburst in class. CNN reported at the time that John Haygood, a student at Okeechobee Achievement Academy, was throwing paper balls at students. His paraprofessional told him to take a time out, but he refused, and kicked and punched the paraprofessional instead. In a previous incident, Haygood allegedly threatened to kill the paraprofessional.
Haygood was expelled from the Academy but returned months later to take a test. He was arrested after refusing to take the test and “not being compliant.” The arresting officer told Haygood’s mother that the 10-year-old had an active warrant because the paraprofessional had filed charges. He was arrested.