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Fired Orlando cop who arrested 6-year-olds said school faculty member wanted to press charges against girl, report shows

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 9/25/2019 Tess Sheets, Grace Toohey
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A faculty member at Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy told Orlando police Officer Dennis Turner she wanted to press charges against a 6-year-old girl who had kicked and punched employees, according to the officer’s arrest report for the child.

Turner was fired by the Police Department after his arrests of the girl and a 6-year-old boy Thursday at the charter school attracted national news headlines and widespread condemnation.

In a statement released after Turner’s firing Monday, a lawyer for the school, Shawn A. Arnold of Jacksonville, said the arrests were “done despite the Principal’s request not to do so.”

But in the student’s arrest report, obtained by the Orlando Sentinel late Tuesday, Turner said staff member Beverly Stoute — identified in the report as an assistant principal — “stated she wanted to press charges and would testify in court.”

Arnold declined to comment on the arrest report Wednesday morning.

The report said the 3-foot-10-inch, 80-pound girl had kicked and punched three employees including Stoute, who was struck on her legs and arms several times. The report included only a brief, four-sentence narrative and didn’t indicate how the incident began.


The boy’s arrest report has not been made public.

Executive Director Christian Minor of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, a nonprofit that advocates addressing delinquency through prevention and treatment, said there is training to help educators discipline misbehaving children in a way less likely to traumatize them.

“These situations can be dealt with so we don’t exacerbate these underlying problems that lead to a child acting out,” Minor said.

The 6-year-old girl’s grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, told WKMG-Channel 6 that she suffers from a sleep disorder that can contribute to tantrums.

Minor said he understands that safety in schools — for both other students and staff — is paramount, but most children who are struggling behaviorally are often dealing with mental health issues, disabilities or challenges at home. He noted that at-risk youth can be challenging for educators, but said there are better ways to respond.

“We have to strike a balance when holding kids accountable," Minor said. "If we’re not sensitive to that, we also impact their future and their ability to learn.”

Though Stoute was identified in the arrest report as an assistant principal, she was listed as a teacher on the charter school’s website, one of five named on the site’s staff page. There were no assistant principals listed, only a principal and a dean of students.

There was no record of a Beverly Stoute in the state’s online teacher certification database. Two other staff members at the school — the dean and a teacher — also did not appear to be in the system. Florida law requires teachers “employed by or under contract to” a charter school to be certified by the state.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education was not immediately able to provide more information.

Arnold in the statement Monday said school officials “fully support the Orlando Police Department’s decision to replace Officer Turner who was previously stationed on campus, with another law enforcement officer as mandated by State statute.”

Before Turner was fired Monday, he worked in OPD’s Reserve Unit, which is made up of retired officers who are required to volunteer a certain amount of hours at the agency per month before they can pick up extra-duty jobs for pay.

Over the course of Turner’s 23-year tenure at OPD prior to retiring last year, he was disciplined seven times for violations of department policy that ranged from unsafe driving to a child-abuse arrest in which he was accused of injuring his 7-year-old son. He was also accused of sending threatening text messages to his ex-wife in 2009 and racial profiling, records show.

Officials have said the arrests last week violated OPD policy, which requires officers to get a supervisor’s approval before arresting children younger than 12.

Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy, an offshoot of Broward County’s Eagle’s Nest Community Charter School, was granted a contract to open in Orange County in 2016. Like other charter schools, the Mercy Drive facility is a public school run by a private group and is not governed by the Orange County School Board or the county’s school district.

The Nixon academy, which had 116 elementary students enrolled at the end of last school year, earned a D on Florida’s annual school report card issued this summer.

Staff writers Jeff Weiner and Leslie Postal contributed. This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.

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