State Attorney Ayala declines to prosecute two young children arrested at school


  • Screenshot via Orange Osceola State Attorney/Facebook
Update, Monday 9 p.m. | CNN and other national news outlets are reporting the school resource officer who arrested the children has been fired by the Orlando Police Department.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced she is declining to prosecute two young children, ages 6 and 8, following their arrests last week at an Orlando charter school.

The 6-year-old, a girl who suffers from sleep apnea, reportedly kicked a school staff member during a temper tantrum.

"When it comes to little elementary-aged children we will not negotiate justice, ever. Today, the healing can start," said Ayala. "I can assure you there will be no criminal prosecution for 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."

She added that she and her team had no intention of ever prosecuting the children. She also noted that Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón also requested the charges be dropped.

The 6-year-old girl was arrested by a school resource officer last Thursday after allegedly kicking a teacher. The child was handcuffed, placed into the back of an Orlando Police Department police car and taken to the juvenile justice center, where she was fingerprinted and photographed for a mugshot.
WFTV initially reported the school resource officer who arrested the two young children, Dennis Turner, had been suspended by Orlando police while they investigate. By Monday evening, Orlando police announced the termination of the officer.

The girl's grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, told reporters by phone she rushed to the juvenile detention center where the girl was held, and "they escorted me into an office and on the [officer's] desk were two mugshot pictures of my 6-year-old granddaughter."

According to Orlando police, the school resource officer did not get a supervisor's approval before arresting the girl, which later prevented the Juvenile Assessment Center from completing the 6-year-old's processing. That step is required for the arrests of all children under 12 years of age.

The other child, an 8-year-old boy, was arrested the same day but there is no case number assigned. When one is, says Ayala, "it too will be immediately dismissed."

"I refuse to play any role in the school-to-prison pipeline at any age."

Disclosure: Prior to joining Orlando Weekly, the writer of this piece created media for Ayala's 2016 campaign. She is not running for re-election.

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