A 6-year-old girl named Kaia Rolle threw a tantrum at her school in September. She lost control and punched and kicked several school employees. And then she calmed down and sat quietly while a school employee read her a story.
Certainly one would expect there to be consequences and interventions in light of her behavior. And a meeting with her parents or legal guardian.
But one would not expect two police officers to enter the school, interrupt her story, and proceed to handcuff the child with zip-ties, arrest her, and lead her out of her school and into a police car. Is it any surprise she was sobbing and pleading “help me, help me, please!” It is gut-wrenching.
Children lose control for lots of reasons, some within and some outside of their control. But it is impossible to think of a single scenario that justifies placing a 6-year-old child’s hands behind her back, bound by zip ties. It is impossible to imagine any convincing reason to arrest that child and send hear away to a “juvenile assessment facility”.
She was terrorized.
The officer was subsequently fired for failing to follow protocol—and that is good. But the way he bragged that Kaia had “broken the record” for his youngest arrest is sickening and indicative of an attitude that is frightening for parents who live in jurisdictions where young school children are treated this way.
Just last week we learned of Nadia, another 6-year-old child who was taken from her school by police. A social worker decided to invoke the Baker Act and have Nadia admitted to a mental healthy facility where she was held for 48 hours —and reportedly injected with a psychotropic drug—without her mother’s knowledge or consent. The mother was not allowed to see her daughter for the two days she was held in the facility.
The Baker Act gives social workers in Florida the power to initiate involuntary holds on children as young as 2 without the need for parental permission. According to the incident report, the child was out of control, throwing chairs and attacking teachers—she was known to have a mood disorder and ADHD.
Even the police officer, who is kind and reassuring to the youngster throughout the ordeal, questions the decision to invoke the Baker Act on this child. Nadia is calm and clearly not out of control when the police arrive and she remains calm on the drive from the school to the facility. It is remarkable and brave, actually.
But let’s imagine the pain and desperation of a parent who finds out from a third party that their 6-year old child has been taken from school by police officers and driven to a mental health facility where they are not permitted to see her for 48 hours. And let’s imagine the terror of a 6 year old child who is locked in a room by herself for two days, unable to see her family, and required injected with thorazine. It is such a grotesque thought, I can’t even begin to imagine the agony.
There is a conversation to be had about what to do when student behavior that is out of control—but God help us if we think that the solution lies anywhere close to handcuffing and arresting 6-year olds at school. God help us if we think that the solution lies in keeping 6-year olds from seeing their parents for any length of time, let alone two days.
God help us if we can’t do better than this.