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Florida lawmakers propose bill to prevent young children from being arrested

Politician calls arrest of 6-year-old Orlando girl ‘heartbreaking’

ORLANDO, Fla. – A Florida senator who filed a bill to prohibit children under 12 from being arrested has announced a compromise with lawmakers that is expected to pave the way for the legislation to pass.

State Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) filed SB 578: Juvenile Justice in October 2019, a few weeks after Kaia Rolle, 6, was arrested for having a temper tantrum on campus.

On Monday, Bracy held a news conference during which he announced that he had come to an agreement with other lawmakers to amend the bill to apply to children 10 and under.

“The senators that wanted to support it felt more comfortable that we be in line with the rest of the country,” Bracy said.

[RELATED: School admins say they didn’t want 6-year-old children to be arrested | 6-year-old girl’s record expunged after arrest at Orlando school | Orlando police sergeant disciplined for forgetting procedure during 6-year-old girl’s arrest]

Last week, Bracy reiterated his effort to stop children from being taken into custody and charged with a crime after body camera video was released showing Kaia sobbing and pleading as she was escorted into the back of a patrol car and taken to a juvenile detention facility. During Monday’s news conference, her grandmother spoke about seeing the footage for the first time.

“To hear her begging for someone to help her and not see an adult comfort her or help her, it was really heartbreaking,” Meralyn Kirkland said. “I started to watch it and then it broke me down a bit and I said -- I wasn’t going to finish it.”

Bracy also mentioned that the video was difficult to watch.

“It was heartbreaking to watch this young 6-year-old girl pleading for help and asking for a second chance as she was being arrested. The trauma this caused Kaia and her family is something nobody should ever have to go through,” Bracy said.

In a news release, Bracy urged a reform of the criminal justice system.

[RELATED: Orlando grandma wants police to implement change after granddaughter’s arrest | Video shows officer who arrested children repeatedly tasing man]

“It is shocking that no existing law prevented this unnecessary response to childhood misbehavior. No 6-year-old should be handcuffed and taken away from school in the back of a police car,” Bracy said.

Bracy said the senate appropriations committee will vote on the amendment to his bill on Tuesday and another vote is scheduled for later this week. The legislative session ends Friday, March 13.

You can also click here to read the text of the bill.