MIAMI – Alexander Fuentes cannot overlook the day that modified his life without end.
January 25, 2018, the Miami little one is seen being led in handcuffs from a Miami Dade faculty police automobile into Miami Kids’s Hospital.
The video which was posted on social media precipitated a firestorm of controversy.
Fuentes was seven years previous and a primary grader at Coral Means Ok – 8 Middle in Miami.
He spoke publicly for the primary time about what occurred to CBS Miami.
“Some bullies got here as much as me within the cafeteria and instructed me to combine rice with milk and the cafeteria girl stated she would inform my instructor,” he stated. In line with the college district, the cafeteria employee instructed him to cease taking part in along with his meals and the scenario escalated.
“She instructed my instructor, I bought mad about it as a result of I did not need to get in bother after which I pulled her hair.”
The college district says it was greater than pulling hair. They accused Fuentes of punching and kicking his instructor.
“They instructed me they had been going to take me to the police cruiser and arrest me,” he says.
“It broke my coronary heart. I stated to the police and principal I stated to everyone we do not do this,” says Mercy Alvarez who’s Alexander’s mom.
Alvarez and her husband, Rolando Fuentes say their son developed post-traumatic stress dysfunction afterward and he’s nonetheless getting remedy. Rolando Fuentes says police gave him two decisions, jail or a psychological well being analysis.
“That officer stated to me, we’ll both arrest or Baker act him and I stated why? My child has no downside. What is the hurt? They stated we’re gonna do it. You haven’t any rights.”
Alexander Fuentes was taken to Kids’s Hospital, the place a discharge sheet reveals that a health care provider identified him with “aggression” and instructed his dad and mom to make an appointment with a psychiatrist.
“I did not perceive what was occurring,” he says
“When you could have a minor below that stress you expect that particular person can develop usually. That can keep of their mind the remainder of their life,” says Rolando Fuentes.
After the pictures of Alexander in handcuffs surfaced, Miami-Dade colleges started grappling with modifying their faculty police procedures, however simply 3 weeks after Alexander was cuffed.
The Parkland bloodbath occurred and adjustments in the way in which younger youngsters in school are handled, accelerated.
“We have lower arrests down by half. Just one % of incidents in colleges result in an arrest,” says Miami-Dade Faculties police chief Edwin Lopez.
After the Parkland tragedy, police presence is required in any respect Florida colleges. Miami-Dade colleges added over 300 officers within the final 4 years and Lopez says that’s what has made an enormous distinction in colleges.
He attributes the decline in arrests to the civil quotation program, officer discretion, and officer coaching. The civil quotation program is a substitute for an arrest being made.
“Once we speak about educating the entire little one, cops play a significant function, mentoring and guiding. Plenty of youngsters are from single-parent households and our officers are guardians, encouraging them to make good decisions benefitting them as an grownup,” says Lopez.
The most recent numbers mirror the adjustments. Final yr, the Miami-Dade Faculty District says out of a pupil inhabitants of 320,000, fewer than 200 youngsters had been arrested. That features ‘no’ elementary faculty college students, 57 youngsters between the ages of 12 and 14, and 142 youngsters between the ages of 15 and 18.
Examine that to pre-pandemic ranges, when Miami-Dade Faculties in 2018-2019 had 279 arrests.
“I used to be an enormous vexed relative to that information that got here out at that exact time,” says Miami-Dade Faculty Board member Dr. Steve Gallon. “That information was inconsistent with our pupil inhabitants. We now have lower than 25 % African American college students, however they represented over 50 % of the arrests on the time,” stated Gallon.
Based mostly on Dr. Gallon’s work, Miami-Dade colleges at the moment are required to report the arrest numbers to the college board yearly, however new information reveals there’s nonetheless a racial disparity.
“Final yr, 124 Black youngsters had been arrested. That is nonetheless greater than half the entire.”
“So, while you take a look at a considerably larger variety of African American males being arrested primarily based on different teams, that tells us that we have to re-calibrate, refocus our efforts educationally, behaviorally, socially, and mentally on the wants of that exact pupil inhabitants,” says Gallon.
CBS 4 discovered that the variety of pupil arrests can be happening in Broward County during the last three years.
Broward is the nation’s sixth-largest public faculty district with about 250,000 college students.
Within the 2018-19 faculty yr, the district says 283 college students had been arrested. Examine that to the 2021-22 faculty yr when 185 college students had been arrested, in keeping with the district.
The breakdown of arrests in Broward: One elementary pupil, 59 center faculty college students, and 125 highschool college students, in keeping with the demographics.
Black college students characterize 65 % of the arrests. They make up 41 % of the coed inhabitants and Hispanic college students had been arrested 19 % of the time. They’re 37 % of the coed inhabitants.
One issue why fewer faculty youngsters are being arrested factors to police de-escalation.
You’ll be able to see it at work in a Fort Lauderdale police physique cam video from final fall. On the time, a ten-year-old pupil introduced a handgun to Walker Elementary Faculty.
The police officer is seen arriving on the faculty and going to the principal’s workplace the place the kid is sitting.
“Hey, buddy how are you, what’s going on in the present day?” the officer asks the kid gently.
The officer is seen eradicating a 9-millimeter handgun from the kid’s backpack. Then, the principal is heard addressing the kid telling him in a peaceful voice, “Going again to class will not be an choice in the present day. So, asking will not change something. Proper now, we have to just remember to are in a superb mind-set and we are able to inform your mommy what’s occurred.”
The kid was not arrested or prosecuted.
Since being elected in 2020, Broward State Lawyer Harold Pryor is altering the way in which youngsters are handled, particularly for minor offenses.
In line with the Florida Division of Juvenile Justice, previously yr between 87 and 88 % of eligible youngsters in Broward who had been thought of first-time offenders had been issued a ‘civil quotation’ or different alternate options to arrest.
The state legal professional credit a joint settlement between prosecutors, legislation enforcement and group companions with bringing down the arrest fee for youngsters below 17, for misdemeanor offenses like disorderly conduct, vandalism and petty larceny.
And there are extra adjustments forward in the case of arresting youngsters.
At their November assembly in Dawn, The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Public Security Fee revealed they’re engaged on a normal to assist colleges successfully establish who’s an actual hazard.
“Menace administration is conduct and figuring out, is that this particular person on a pathway to violence and we have to off-ramp this earlier than that particular person acts?” says Fee Chair Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County.
“There are a variety of counties in Florida who don’t have any automated system. So, there’s room for alternatives in menace administration which is the best alternative to get to prevention,” says Sheriff Gualtieri.
Modifications in perspective and therapy come too late for Alexander Fuentes. He’s now in a non-public faculty and is an “A” pupil, in keeping with his dad and mom.
He says he realized a harsh lesson in first grade. “Placing a minor in jail is certainly unsuitable.”
Whereas South Florida colleges are lowering the variety of youngsters arrested, Alexander Fuentes’ dad and mom say one little one being arrested, is one too many.
“Plenty of households have the identical downside however they do not speak about it,” says Mercy Alvarez. She hopes extra dad and mom will break the silence when their youngsters are arrested and handcuffed in school.
“They need to actually put an effort into creating packages to assist households in want,” agreed Rolando Fuentes.