9 Year Old with Mental Illness Charged with 4 Felony Counts in Florida

By Fatima Badreddine

On Monday, a 9-year old girl allegedly attacked a school bus driver after she was told that she had to stop eating her Halloween candy on the bus.

However, before I delve into the facts of the story, there’s something you should know first: the girl attends Florida’s Royal Palm Exceptional School, a school specifically designed for students with “emotional disabilities.” The Principal’s school mission statement, listed on the website, reads:

“We are an Exceptional Student Education program and all students must be identified through the District IEP (Individual Education Plan) process before placement. . . .We are very proud of our dedicated staff, who are focused on one primary goal: The successful return of our students to their regular education setting. This is accomplished through a daily social/behavioral skills curriculum and an academic curriculum designed to meet the individual needs of every student.”

So, the girl is on a school bus that is either taking her to or from a school that is specifically designed to treat students with emotional disorders.

Now, back to the facts of the story:

After the girl was told to stop eating her candy, she reportedly refused,  and then cursed at the bus driver and spit at him. When she got off the bus, she stood on the roadside and threw chunks of asphalt at the bus. A deputy, who had responded to the scene, saw a piece of asphalt hit the windshield in front of the bus driver. When the girl saw the deputy, she walked towards a nearby yard, picked up an “aluminum-frame lawn chair”, and threw it at the deputy. The girl then resisted arrest by kicking and trying to push the deputy.

The 5-foot, 130-pound 9-year old was charged with four felony counts:

1. Felony battery (3rd degree felony), under F.S.S. 784.041(2)(a);

2. Throwing a deadly missile at a bus (2nd degree felony), under

F.S.S. 790.19 (where a “missile” includes a “stone or other hard substance”);

3. Battery of a law enforcement officer (3rd degree felony), under

F.S.S. 784.07 (2b)and

4. Resisting officer with violence (3rd degree felony), under

F.S.S. 843.01.

Later, while in jail, the girl repeatedly smacked her head against the bars of the cell until one of the officers sprayed her with pepper spray. By this time, it should have been clear to them that the girl suffered from a severe mental disorder.

The girl’s mother later reported to local news that the 9-year-old suffers from schizophrenia and takes medication to control her episodes.

Sgt. Stephanie Eller would not comment on the girl’s mental condition, but she said that “her office sought no official confirmation.” Meaning that they didn’t contact the girl’s mother or her school? If they knew what school she went to, how could they possibly not know that she suffered from an emotional disorder? Even if they didn’t know, they should have known.

Besides, using pepper spray on  9-year-old, regardless of mental illness, is unnecessary and excessive. She was harming herself, but there are other methods of handling that, such as physically restraining her or placing her in a padded cell.  She should have been taken to a hospital after hitting her head, anyway.

But apparently society doesn’t think much of troubled youth. In fact, news organizations began releasing the girl’s name, placing her in national spotlight. Is this how we treat children who suffer from mental illness?

Reportedly, no one was injured.

For further information, see above links, or the following:

9-Year-Old Girl Arrested After Her School Bus Tantrum Takes a Violent Turn

9-year-old Fla. girl faces felony charges after school bus tantrum

Preteen Facing Felony Charges Over Incident on School Bus

Girl, 9, arrested after fit of rage on school bus

Fort Myers girl, 9, faces multiple felony charges

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One thought on “9 Year Old with Mental Illness Charged with 4 Felony Counts in Florida

  1. The cop in the field was likely doing his best under the circumstances, and probably did the right thing by arresting the girl, for her own safety if nothing else. However, it is inexcusable if the police did not immediately contact the girl’s parents, and then seek assistance from a medical or psychological professional rather than taking her to jail and pepper spraying her. A 9-year-old has no place in a jail; the fact that this was an emotionally unstable 9-year-old just makes it worse. Finally, whatever idiot charged a 9-year-old with felonies for throwing a temper tantrum has some serious explaining to do.

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