On September 19, Florida grandmother Meralyn Kirkland received an outrageous phone call from the police regarding her granddaughter Kaia Rolle. She was told the 6-year-old, a first grader at Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy charter school in Orlando, was being arrested.
“What do you mean she was arrested?” Meralyn recalled asking, in an interview with NBC news affiliate WFLA. “[The police officer] said ‘there was an incident and she kicked somebody and she is being charged and she is on her way.”
In other words, she had thrown a tantrum—something kids her age do all the time. But in Kaia’s situation, she was arrested, handcuffed and driven to a juvenile detention center.
When Meralyn tried to retrieve her granddaughter, “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.”
At the juvenile detention center, the youngster also had her mugshot taken.
“No 6-year-old child should be able to tell somebody that they had handcuffs on them,” Meralyn continued tearfully, “and they were riding in the back of a police car …”
Kaia has sleep apnea, which Meralyn said might have been what caused her granddaughter to kick another child after a nap. When Meralyn told Dennis Turner, the Orlando Police Department school resource officer who was on duty and arrested her granddaughter, about Kaia’s condition, she said he replied, “Well, I have sleep apnea and I don’t behave like that.”
The little girl was released from custody and returned to Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy before her charge was processed. In the WFLA video, she is seen first playing the keyboard in her bedroom, then curled up next to her grandmother on the couch. “I felt sad that my grandma was sad and I really missed her,” Kaia said. She has to report to court on October 16—if she doesn’t, there will be a warrant out for her arrest.
On the same day Kaia was arrested, Turner arrested an 8-year-old child, also a student at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy. He was processed at the juvenile detention center and then released to a family member, according to Buzzfeed News.
Lt. Wanda Miglio of the Orlando PD told Buzzfeed News that Turner will be suspended from his position as a school resource officer until after an internal investigation is conducted. According to Orlando PD policy, any arrest on a child under 12 must be approved by a watch commander. Lt. Miglio said Turner did not get approval for arresting either child.
We cannot imagine how terrified Kaia and her grandmother, and the 8-year-old and his family, must feel after their traumatic incidents. It’s worth noting that across the board, black children are far more likely to be punished at school than their white peers. Black children get suspended more often than white kids, are expelled more often, and reported to law enforcement more frequently, despite there being absolutely no data that black children act out anymore so than their white counterparts.