ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando law enforcement officer last week arrested two young students — ages 6 and 8 — in separate incidents involving misbehavior at the Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy Charter School, where the students attend school and the officer works as a school resource officer (SRO). Bacardi Jackson, managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Florida office, issued the following statement:
“The arrests of two children by a school resource officer at the Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy Charter School is deeply disturbing. No 6-year-old, 8-year-old or any other young child should ever be subjected to the traumatic experience of being handcuffed, fingerprinted and arrested by a law enforcement officer for normal behavior – like throwing a tantrum.
“Early childhood development experts and educators are best suited to proactively address student misbehavior — not a law enforcement officer, particularly not one who is known to have used excessive and unnecessary force in the past.
“We are pleased that there is an investigation into the SRO’s failure to receive approval from his supervisors before making the arrests. Still, the arrests raise serious concerns about officers policing elementary school students, rather than protecting them.
“We must remain vigilant in questioning fear-based solutions like police patrolling school hallways and arming school personnel, which have left our children vulnerable to excessive force, unnecessary arrests and other traumatic, life-altering experiences.
“At the very least, unvetted and inadequately trained officers cannot be permitted to enter our schools and ieract with children on a routine basis. We know the disproportionate impact of such evidence-free policies will be felt most severely by students of color and students with disabilities or medical conditions, like Kaia Rolle, the 6-year-old who was arrested.
“We urge schools and police departments across the state to re-examine their practices. Also, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission and the state’s Legislature must reconsider the recommendations and legislation that have led us down this dangerous path. Over 250,000 children in Florida attend school with armed guards or law enforcement, but no counselor. The state must provide resources to ensure our schools are safe, healthy and welcoming for all students.”