TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today we heard from the grandmother of a 6-year-old Orlando girl who was arrested at her charter school and has been fighting for more than a year to change state law.
A state senate committee passed the proposal that would limit the age of arrests, just after hearing Kaia Rolle’s grandmother speak about the horror of the incident.
Kaia was just 6 years old when she was handcuffed and arrested for misdemeanor battery, over what her grandmother described as nothing more than a tantrum, as a result of a sleeping disorder she’s been battling.
“On the morning, our lives changed forever when my 6-year-old granddaughter was handcuffed, lifted into a policy car, her hands tightly bound behind her back, which resulted in her having abrasions for many, many days,” her grandmother Meralyn Kirkland said.
For the second year in a row, she made the four-hour drive to Tallahassee in hopes state lawmakers pass legislation ensuring that scene isn’t replayed. Kaia was pulled out of Emma Nixon Academy, a charter school and taken to a detention center in September of 2019.
“Instead of hugs, love … she received the absolute terror of being yanked away from the people she knew,” Kirkland said.
The proposal sponsored by Senator Randolph Bracy of Ocoee, would prohibit a child younger than 7 years old from being adjudicated delinquent, arrested, or charged with a violation of law, with the exception of a forcible felony.
A similar he tried to get passed last year, failed. But there was a long list of supporters read during this committee hearing, including one current state senator, Democrat Victor Torres, who said this should send a message to law enforcement across the state that they should think twice about re-playing a scene like this.
We searched the state Juvenile Justice database and found out during the 2019-2020 school year children 7 to 10 years old made up 81 arrests statewide. The numbers increase in children 11 to 14 years old. Bracy couldn’t get support for his bill to extend to older children, but Kaia’s grandmother is thankful for this start. “Please let us join together today to say that this traumatization ends today,” Kirkland said.\
The measure now moves on to the full senate for debate and a vote.