Florida school safety bill includes child arrest clause after 6-year-old arrested

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: via WINK News.

Florida lawmakers are proposing a new measure to keep students safe after a 6-year-old was arrested and zip-tied at school recently. Video of a young Jacksonville student getting escorted out of the school went viral and upset many people.

A new school safety bill in Florida could prevent that from happening again depending on the situation. But Southwest Florida parents say it even needs to go further than that.

The Florida House approved the bill. But part of the bill would not set a minimum age for arresting children, which is something local parents told us doesn’t sound like a safety measure.

“My son’s five, so I don’t think I could see him getting arrested in the next year,” parent Serina Truckenmiller said.

“They shouldn’t be arresting 6-year-old kids,” parent Scott Huff said. “I think there should be an age limit.”

Dr. David Thomas, a former police officer and current professor at FGCU, says juvenile arrests have very sensitive protocols.

“It’s a difficult group to deal with because we have to transport them,” Thomas said. “We have to wait … It takes time.”

“Haul them off in a police car,” Huff said. “That’s pretty traumatic for a child.”

“I think the parents should be held accountable for that,” Truckenmiller.

And this bill would make sure law enforcement agencies establish specific policies for arrests of children 10 years old and under and tell the public exactly what they are.

Transparency puts dads such as Huff at ease.

“I think about my children every day,” Huff said. “They’re not with me. I’m not the dad there to protect them. So, to know that when they’re at school all the people there are trained and ready to protect them, it makes me sleep a little easier.”

Dr. Thomas told us those agencies will likely have protocols making arrests for young kids the very last option.

“Where they know they don’t have to make an arrest,” Thomas said.

Now this bill is about a lot more than arrests. It boosts schools’ abilities to handle crisis situations, enforcing post-Parkland safety laws like armed security on campus and making sure schools reunite students with parents after an emergency event

The bill now goes to the Florida Senate, but it’s unclear if the Senate will take up the part of the child arrests.

“They have the resource officers,” Huff said. “Maybe they can get involved and help calm the situation down a little bit before we move to arresting somebody.”

MORE: House Bill 7065

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