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Senate revives minimum age of arrest amendment, passes with school safety bill

The minimum age push appeared dead Tuesday.

The Senate has revived an amendment setting a minimum age for arrest in the state of Florida, attaching it to an overall school safety bill approved Wednesday in the Senate.

That measure (HB 7065) will now head to the House for approval. The Senate approved the bill 39-0.

Of note is an amendment offered by Sen. Randolph Bracy dubbed the “Kaia Rolle Act.” That provision states, “a child younger than 7 years of age may not be adjudicated delinquent, arrested, or charged with a violation of  law or a delinquent act on the basis of acts occurring before he or she reaches 7 years of age.”

The measure does allow for an arrest if a child younger than 7 commits a forcible felony.

Bracy pushed for the amendment after the arrest of 6-year-old Kaia Rolle by an Orlando police officer. Police were called after Kaia threw a tantrum and kicked a student. That officer was later fired after a video of the arrest went viral and sparked outrage.

The push appeared to be dead Tuesday, according to Bracy, because of a potential rules challenge by Committee Chair Lizabeth Benaquisto.

But the amendment was revived and approved Wednesday afternoon. Bracy says he continued to push Senate leadership on the need for adopting the amendment.

The larger bill adopts safety changes after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Those changes follow recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission (MSD Commission), as well as a school safety grand jury impaneled last year.

Sen. Manny Diaz was behind the Senate version of the bill (SB 7040). Rep. Ralph Massullo shepherded the House version.

The measure hits several school safety aspects such as increasing emergency preparedness, reforming the Guardian training process and increasing the ability to prosecute false emergency tips.

For instance, school boards will be required set up emergency family reunification plans by Aug. 1, 2021.

The bill also directs any sheriff’s office conducting Guardian training to review and approve an applicant’s psychological and drug tests before training to ensure they are eligible to perform as a Guardian.

The grand jury found that program was wasting valuable resources by training individuals who were later found to be ineligible.

Knowingly submitting false tips through FortifyFL will also trigger an investigation under the bill, where “the IP address of the device on which the tip was submitted will be provided to law enforcement agencies.”

The legislation also adds three new members to the MSD Commission to represent educational interests. Those members will each either be a superintendent, principal or classroom teacher within the state. Another two additional members would be recommended by the president of the NAACP Florida State Conference and the Florida Consortium of Urban League Affiliates.

The measure would also require student codes of conduct to include criteria for assigning students to diversion programs for minor violations. And the local state attorney will “monitor and enforce compliance with school-based diversion program requirements.”

School safety officers would also be required to undergo mental health crisis intervention training. Past school shooters, including the person behind the 2018 attack, exhibited several mental health problems before the attack.

“The training shall improve officers’ knowledge and skills as first responders to incidents  involving students with emotional disturbance or mental illness, including de-escalation skills to ensure student and officer safety.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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