Family reflects on the arrest of a 6-year-old girl at school

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It’s been three years since Kaia Rolle was arrested at her school in Orlando for having a temper tantrum.Kaia was six years old when Dennis Turner, a former officer for the Orlando Police Department, who was fired as a result of this incident, walked into the room at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy on Sept. 19, 2019.Kaia began to cry as the officer put zip ties on her wrists, asking for help. “Please let me go,” she asks the officer as she continues to cry.”I don’t want to go to the police car,” she tells the officer putting her in the back as she sobs, begging to be let go, the body camera video shows.He then took her to a juvenile center where she was fingerprinted and had her picture taken. The charges against Kaia were dropped.Turner then reentered the school where a woman asks if the restraints were necessary. Turner replies that if Kaia was bigger, they would have used handcuffs to restrain her.Kaia was accused of kicking and punching staff members during her tantrum. Her grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, said Kaia’s tantrum was the result of sleep apnea. She said the school knew about her sleep apnea and she was scheduled to get surgery to help the symptoms.”This happened on Sept. 19. Her surgery was scheduled for Oct. 31. It just took everything from just a medical condition, that was going to be resolved, to a lifetime of mental and emotional issues,” Kirkland said.Kirkland said the arrest changed Kaia’s life forever and she hasn’t been the same since.Doctors diagnosed her with PTSD, separation anxiety and oppositional defiant disorder. She’s also on four different types of medication.”The psychiatrist explained because an authoritative figure caused the trauma, she reacted to any type of authority, be it us, be it the school; she was in fear of authority,” Kirkland said.The family says they are learning about mental health through family therapy. Doctors taught them how to help manage Kaia’s meltdowns and triggers. Even Kaia learned how her brain works.They added emotional support animals to their family like their dog, Cookie, and their bunny, Pinky Pie. Kaia also has a doll, Averi, to hold on to at night.Kirkland says they are doing whatever they can to let Kaia know she is doing well.”Almost every day, she comes to me and says, ‘Grandma, am I being good today? Grandma, am I behaving? Grandma, how’s my behavior?’ She’s always looking for reassurance that she is behaving. You have to tell her, hun, you’re not being a bad girl. You know, these are things beyond your control and we’re working on your adaptive skills,” Kirkland says.”I miss the old me. I miss my behaviors. I miss my old, good behaviors. It’s taking away the old me. It’s taking away the good behaviors I had. It’s taking away my friends and family,” Kaia said.Despite the challenges, Kaia is doing well at a different school in Orange County. She loves to play the piano and sing. She also enjoys art and spending time with her family. A week after the arrest, retired Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolon announced Turner had been fired.There’s also a law, in Kaia’s honor, setting the minimum arrest age in Florida to seven. Her family continues pushing for the minimum age to be 12.

It’s been three years since Kaia Rolle was arrested at her school in Orlando for having a temper tantrum.

Kaia was six years old when Dennis Turner, a former officer for the Orlando Police Department, who was fired as a result of this incident, walked into the room at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy on Sept. 19, 2019.

Kaia began to cry as the officer put zip ties on her wrists, asking for help. “Please let me go,” she asks the officer as she continues to cry.

“I don’t want to go to the police car,” she tells the officer putting her in the back as she sobs, begging to be let go, the body camera video shows.

He then took her to a juvenile center where she was fingerprinted and had her picture taken. The charges against Kaia were dropped.

Turner then reentered the school where a woman asks if the restraints were necessary. Turner replies that if Kaia was bigger, they would have used handcuffs to restrain her.

Kaia was accused of kicking and punching staff members during her tantrum.

Her grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, said Kaia’s tantrum was the result of sleep apnea. She said the school knew about her sleep apnea and she was scheduled to get surgery to help the symptoms.

“This happened on Sept. 19. Her surgery was scheduled for Oct. 31. It just took everything from just a medical condition, that was going to be resolved, to a lifetime of mental and emotional issues,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland said the arrest changed Kaia’s life forever and she hasn’t been the same since.

Doctors diagnosed her with PTSD, separation anxiety and oppositional defiant disorder. She’s also on four different types of medication.

“The psychiatrist explained because an authoritative figure caused the trauma, she reacted to any type of authority, be it us, be it the school; she was in fear of authority,” Kirkland said.

The family says they are learning about mental health through family therapy. Doctors taught them how to help manage Kaia’s meltdowns and triggers. Even Kaia learned how her brain works.

They added emotional support animals to their family like their dog, Cookie, and their bunny, Pinky Pie. Kaia also has a doll, Averi, to hold on to at night.

Kirkland says they are doing whatever they can to let Kaia know she is doing well.

“Almost every day, she comes to me and says, ‘Grandma, am I being good today? Grandma, am I behaving? Grandma, how’s my behavior?’ She’s always looking for reassurance that she is behaving. You have to tell her, hun, you’re not being a bad girl. You know, these are things beyond your control and we’re working on your adaptive skills,” Kirkland says.

“I miss the old me. I miss my behaviors. I miss my old, good behaviors. It’s taking away the old me. It’s taking away the good behaviors I had. It’s taking away my friends and family,” Kaia said.

Despite the challenges, Kaia is doing well at a different school in Orange County. She loves to play the piano and sing. She also enjoys art and spending time with her family.

A week after the arrest, retired Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolon announced Turner had been fired.

There’s also a law, in Kaia’s honor, setting the minimum arrest age in Florida to seven. Her family continues pushing for the minimum age to be 12.