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Florida School Police Officer Fired After Handcuffing And Arresting Two 6-Year-Olds

Former Officer Dennis Turner was working as a school resource officer at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy, a charter school located in Orlando, when he responded to a 6-year-old having a temper tantrum. Instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, he chose to cuff the child using a zip tie and place the child in the back of a squad car.

He then went on to do the same to another child who was also having a tantrum, a perfectly normal occurrence for many 6-year-olds. The children were then charged with misdemeanor battery and transported to a juvenile detention facility where they were fingerprinted and photographed.

Shortly after the incident, Turner was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. After the conclusion of that investigation, he was fired.

Orlando Chief of Police, Orlando Rolón said that the whole situation made him “sick to [his] stomach.” The fact that the children were placed in the back of a squad car was especially sickening to him.

Rolón said that there is a procedure for arresting minors, and that procedure was not followed.

“The Orlando Police Department has a policy that addresses the arrest of a minor and our initial finding shows the policy was not followed.” 

“As a grandparent of three children less than 11 years old this is very concerning to me.” 

Rolón also reported that the arrests of the young children were halted as soon as a supervisor at the juvenile center was made aware of the circumstances, and the children were returned to school before they were processed.

Meralyn Kirkland, grandmother of the 6-year-old girl who was arrested by Turner, said that she thought her granddaughter’s behavior was likely due to sleep apnea. The exhaustion caused by not being able to get a good night’s rest was interfering with her ability to regulate emotions, causing her to act out.

State Attorney Aramis D. Ayala, who serves the ninth judicial circuit, said that her department never intended to charge Kirkland’s granddaughter.

“Case numbers are generated by our clerk’s office and it is only at that point that I, as a state attorney, is authorized to act. A case number pertaining to the 6-year-old girl was provided to my office this morning and the charges were dropped this morning.”

Ayala went on to say:

“I can assure you that there will be no criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor battery for these elementary children in my name or on my watch. Unlike some, I will not presume guilt or dangerousness of a child based on any demographic.” 

“We must explore better option as a state. We must raise the expectations of how we respond in difficult situations.”

“This is not a reflection on the children, but more of a reflection of a broken system that is in need of reform. It’s time to address juvenile legislation in ways that better protect the interests of children and their development.”

It isn’t just the school system that failed these children. The system that allowed a charged child abuser to work in an elementary school also failed them.

In the course of a press conference about Turner’s conduct and subsequent firing, Police Chief Rolón disclosed that Turner had disciplinary issues In the past.

A 1998 article from the Orlando Sentinel revealed that Turner had been charged with aggravated child abuse for harming his own son when he was 37. This abuse reportedly occurred after his 7-year-old son brought home a disappointing report card.

Turner left “welts and bruises” on his son that were later seen by officials and led to the aggravated child abuse charge.

His response to the charge was surprise, and his message to others was simply:

“Don’t let this stop you from disciplining your children.”

Turner was also cited or investigated for excessive force multiple times throughout his career as a police officer.

Many expressed significant concern that an officer who was charged with child abuse was allowed to work as a school resource officer in the first place.

Several said that simply firing the officer is not enough.


Others were concerned that a procedure for arresting a child as young as 6 even exists.


Some people were confused how the school’s resource officer became involved in a simple temper tantrum at all.

This event was a tragedy for the two little children who had to endure such a terrifying experience. It was an understandable source of outrage for anyone who heard about it. Thankfully justice was served, at least partially, with Turner’s firing.

Anyone who thinks that cuffing and arresting a 6-year-old is an acceptable solution to a temper tantrum should not be allowed to work with children.

They obviously don’t have the correct skill set.

*****
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Written by Winona Sioux Christnot-Peters

Winona Sioux Christnot-Peters is a writer/web designer and aspiring librarian based in Northern Maine. When not writing or in class, they devote much of their time to multiple non-profit organizations, largely focusing on LGBTQ+ rights and animal welfare. During rare moments of free time Winona enjoys video and tabletop games, as well as various nerdy fiber crafts such as crocheting (mainly amigurumi Pokémon, cat toys, and blankets) and counted cross stitch.