As reported by The New York Times, a Florida school resource officer, Officer Dennis Turner, has recently come under attack after arresting two schoolchildren for separate issues. Turner, a retired police officer, works in the Reserve Officer Program to ensure the safety of students attending a local Orlando, Florida school. On Sept. 19, 2019, Turner arrested two children, one being six years old and the other being eight years old. The younger student was said to have been arrested for kicking a school staff member during a temper tantrum. It was not disclosed what the eight year old was arrested for. According to the policies under the reserve program, in order for an officer to make an arrest to any child under the age of 12, the officer must have their supervisor’s permission. This is something that Officer Turner failed to do for both of the children’s arrests. At this time, the younger child was processed through the Juvenile Assessment Center before being released to a family member. The older student was halted in their transport to the center after it was revealed that a supervisor’s permission was not granted to the officer prior to the arrest.
The six year old was charged with assault and battery before being released to a concerned family member. While the child does deserve to be disciplined for acting out in such a violent manner, it is unnecessary for an arrest to have occurred. After all, if every child was arrested for kicking and having a temper tantrum then they would all be in a juvenile detention center. This escalation of events is not a rational reaction to a child having a tantrum. A six year old deserves appropriate discipline instead of being traumatized from being placed in handcuffs. It is not the officer’s place to inappropriately discipline a child for the behavior, especially an officer who, according to the New York Times, was charged with aggravated child abuse in 1998. If the officer is unable to care for his own child, how do they expect him to care for and protect someone else’s?
While the school has attempted to implement a rational policy of receiving supervisor’s permission before arresting any student under the age of 12, the system should examine the necessity of making such arrests in the first place. Unless there are extreme circumstances, such as threatening the safety of other students and staff that exceed a temper tantrum, an elementary student should never be placed in handcuffs.
In order for children to feel safe and protected at school they need to have a resource officer who will not act out of malice. Officer Turner failed to appropriately respond in these situations, not only resulting in severe repercussions for himself, but also leading to traumatizing experiences for the children. There is no rational explanation for needing to arrest an elementary student after they had a temper tantrum, especially in knowing that no one was even injured. Rather than handcuffing a child for kicking a school staff member, he should have had a conversation with them to understand why they acted out and make sure that they know that acting this way is not acceptable. Most children act out in irrational and sometimes violent manners, but when they do, they are not arrested. Officer Turner’s actions were radical, not rational.