ORLANDO, Fla. - State Attorney Aramis Ayala says two 6-year-old children who were arrested at an Orlando school will not be prosecuted and officials will do everything possible to remove the arrests from their records.
Ayala held a news conference Monday afternoon after the stories of the arrests Thursday at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy caused controversy.
"I want this community to know that I hear you. I also want you to know that when it comes to little elementary-aged children, we will not negotiate justice, ever. Today, the healing can start," Ayala said.
Both children, a 6-year-old boy and 6-year-old Kaia Rolle, were facing misdemeanor battery charges. They were both cuffed by Officer Dennis Turner, who did not receive necessary permission before taking the children into custody, according to Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon.
[Watch Ayala's full remarks below]
Turner was suspended immediately pending the outcome of an internal investigation. On Monday, Rolon said Turner had been fired and would no longer be serving as a school resource officer.
Rolon said he was sick to his stomach when he heard about the two children being arrested.
"We were all appalled. We could not fathom the idea of a 6-year-old being put in the back of a police car and to be honest with you, it's still shocking to us," Rolon said.
The police chief also plans to make sure that every officer knows the policy when it comes to arresting juveniles. He wants to make sure something like this never happens again in the future.
"On behalf of myself and the entire Orlando Police Department, I apologize to the children involved and their families. As a grandfather of three children less than 11 years old, I can only imagine how traumatic this was for everyone involved," Rolon said.
Ayala said her office never intended to prosecute the children, but she couldn't take official action until Monday, when Rolle was assigned a case number. The boy's charge will officially be dropped as well once his case is assigned a number.
Ayala said she's adamantly against prosecuting young children and that the two recent arrests are indicative of a bigger problem in the justice system. She called for better legislation to address issues like these and quell the "school-to-prison pipeline."
"We must explore better option as a state. We must raise the expectations of how we respond in difficult situations," Ayala said. "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."
Meralyn Kirkland said her granddaughter was at school Thursday when she started acting out in class due to a lack of sleep caused by her sleep apnea. Rolle was taken to the office, and when someone tried to grab her to calm her down, she thrashed her arms and legs, kicking a staff member.
Rolle was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, where she was finger printed and had mugshots taken before she was released to her family, according to Kirkland.
"How do you do that to a 6-year-old child and because she kicked somebody?" Kirkland asked.
Details on the arrest of the 6-year-old boy were not immediately available.
Ayala said these two arrests and others like them should be shocking to anyone.
"At the end of the day, children deserve to be disciplined by all means when they're misbehaving but as I said earlier, the discipline must not depend on the criminal justice system," Ayala said.
She hopes the families can find peace knowing that the children won't face prosecution, and she wants others to know she's doing everything in her power to prevent similar incidents.
"It ends here. Now the healing can begin, the questions can begin, but I am not going to be part of perpetuating this conduct that is not, what I believe, defining justice," Ayala said.
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