Episode 95 - 6-year-old arrested for tantrum at school

Transcript, Web links and Credits below.


On this past Thursday, at a local charter school in Orlando, Florida a 6-year-old girl was handcuffed, arrested, put in a police car, finger printed, had a mugshot, and jailed — over a tantrum she had in class.

It’s despicable. I spoke with experts this weekend who said that the United States may be the only nation in the world where such a thing would ever happen.

We just learned they did the same thing to another 8-year-old on the same day.

This is the literal school to prison pipeline and it must be interrupted.

This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)!


The United States is the incarceration nation. It’s a crisis. Our nation has been so criminalized, and it’s so fully baked into thousands and thousands of systems — that we have now reached a point where school systems are fully permitting police officers to arrest and charge 6-year-old girls with crimes for behaviors that should’ve received a note sent home or a simple call to her parents.

What I am about to say will likely surprise you.

The officer in this case, Dennis Turner, of the Orlando, Florida Police Department, is absolutely to blame. We’ve since learned that he was once arrested for brutally beating his own 7-year-old child and has been investigated for horrible instances of police brutality throughout his career. So yes, this man is problematic. He’s been problematic. And my best guess is that wherever you put Officer Dennis Turner — in a home, in a school, on the streets — he’s going to harm people.

But that’s why I have to blame this charter school, Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy, and all of their administrators for allowing such a thing to happen. Let me be clear. Not only as a parent to five children, but as a spouse of a woman who taught elementary school for 16 years, and as a trained school teacher myself. As easy as this is to put off on the officer, this is a major failure of this school, of the teacher, of the front office staff, of the principal, and even of the entire Orlando City Schools system.

What’s happening here is exactly what we see happening in all types of facets of society. Police officers and police departments are being used as contractors for work they have no skill or training for. This officer, Dennis Turner, not only has a history of beating children and adults alike, he’s not an educator. He has not been trained on the psychological development of children. He has not been trained on behavioral management. And that the school co-signed this man arresting, handcuffing, and jailing a 6-year-old girl and another 8-year-old child is a complete failure on the part of the school.

The police department is saying that officers are supposed to get permission from a supervisor for the arrest of children under 12, but here’s the thing — this never should’ve been allowed to happen. Shame on every administrator there who could and should’ve intervened before you allowed this child to experience an arrest. Shame on you. I am so angry.

But this is what we see all over the nation — in our school systems and with our mental health systems — police officers are being used for school behavioral problems and mental health problems and ultimately end up arresting, brutalizing, and sometimes even murdering people who didn’t even need to be in contact with the police.

Call the police if you have an active shooter. But when a 6-year-old girl has a behavior problem, the police don’t even need to be anywhere near that situation. EVER.

And before I ever saw a picture of this child, ask me how I knew she was Black?

Let me break it down (Break it down).

What happened to this young girl is a particularly Black experience.

According to German Lopez of Vox.com:

  • Federal civil rights investigations have found that Black students are punished more harshly than white students in schools even when Black and white students engage in identical or similar behavior. And that Black children were 7x more likely to be sent home or referred to the police for identical behaviors of white children.

  • Black students with disabilities are almost three times as likely to experience out-of-school suspension or expulsion as their white counterparts, and twice as likely to experience in-school suspension or expulsion, according to a report from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

  • Although Black boys face higher rates of school discipline than anyone else, a report from Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies found that Black girls are six times as likely to be suspended as white girls, while Black boys are three times as likely to be suspended as white boys.

Young Black girls make up less than 20 percent of all young girls in America’s preschools but are 54 percent of the girls receiving the harshest punishments in those schools.

Research shows that adults, particularly white adults — but all adults — see Black girls as less innocent than their white counterparts, even as toddlers. Studies show that adults believe young Black girls as young as five know more about sex and crime than their white counterparts.

And here’s what happens. These young Black girls are then an astounding 10x more likely to go to jail or prison as adults because of the way they were treated as children. And of course they are. This poor young baby already has a mugshot. Already has had her fingerprints taken. Has already been put in handcuffs. She has already suffered criminalization.

And it not only damages her — it has criminalized her in front of all of her peers.

This is enough.

And it leads me to our action steps for today.

(Action Steps Music)

Today I have 3 action steps for you.

Let’s let this school, and this school district know how we feel, OK

  1. Call the Orlando School System office and let them know you want them to change their policy on the arrest of children in their school system. (407) 317-3200

  2. Let’s call the Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy and let them know that they have failed these students and these families by allowing their students to be arrested and sent to jail. Call them today at (407) 412-6968. The principal there is Melanie Harp. Ask to speak to her or an administrator.

  3. Lastly, I’d like for you to call your local school system and let me know what you find out. What are their policies on the arrest of children? Have them send you the policies and let us know what you find out @ thebreakdown@thenorthstar.com.


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Take care everybody.



Produced by Willis Polk II