“It is never appropriate for one of our employees to be physically attacked. However, based upon federal laws relating to special needs students, there would be additional factors considered in the evaluation of such an incident.”

On two occasions this school year, Okaloosa County special needs teachers have sought to have students in their care arrested on battery charges.

Both efforts were ultimately rejected by the Sheriff’s Office.

One incident, which occurred Sept. 13, involved a 6-year-old student who hit his teacher on the arm, causing injuries reported as “minor bruising.”

The other, described as a “very hard (slap) in the face over the bridge of her nose and both eye sockets” resulted in facial injuries and a concussion to the teacher, a Sheriff’s Office report said. The student involved in that incident was 13.

The incident, which took place Aug. 27 was not reported until Sept. 3. The deputy who processed the complaint stated that because of the time lapse there were no visible signs of injury to the teacher.

Both educators who asked that their students be charged were ESE teachers at Richbourg School for the Disabled in Crestview.

The decision of a teacher to file a criminal complaint against a student is an individual choice and is not directed by the School District, according to Superintendent Marcus Chambers.

“That said, the safety of students and employees in our schools is my top priority. We have a tremendous relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and work with them daily to ensure safety in our schools,” Chambers said in an emailed response to questions.

School District spokesman Steve Horton said he knows of no existing Okaloosa County schools union guidelines that dictate if and when an educator might seek law enforcement action against a student. A public records request turned up no communications between union officials and teacher members discussing the bringing of criminal charges.

Paperwork documenting the first incident was released Tuesday, a day after news outlets in Florida reported an uproar caused by an Orlando area school resource officer who on Sept. 19 arrested two 6-year-old charter school students and charged them with battery. On Monday, the Orlando Police Department fired the officer who'd made the arrests and the agency issued an apology to the children involved and their families.

It has also been recently reported that a 7-year-old Escambia County student was arrested Sept. 13 and charged with battery. The charge was later dropped.

In both Okaloosa County cases, investigators interviewed witnesses and consulted the physicians of the special needs students before determining that the children did not act with criminal intent.

Sheriff Larry Ashley said it is the Sheriff's Office policy to "examine each case based on its individual merits."

In the first, most serious case, the student involved was described by deputies investigating the incident as having “trouble controlling his impulses, which includes lashing out and striking people with or without provocation.”

“It is never appropriate for one of our employees to be physically attacked,” Chambers said. “However, based upon federal laws relating to special needs students, there would be additional factors considered in the evaluation of such an incident.”

The second incident began with the child in question “eloping” and running away from teachers. Shortly after he was rounded up and escorted back to his class room the teacher involved approached the school student resource officer to state she’d “been attacked and wanted to file charges because he had struck her on the left forearm.”

The report also noted two failed attempts to kick the teacher.

In closing the case, the Sheriff’s Office investigator reported that “hitting and kicking is clearly documented as part of (the child’s) behavior disorder,” it said. “Therefore, there is no evidence of any criminal intent and there has been no crime committed."

The mother of the 6-year-old told the Northwest Florida Daily News that a pair of ESE teachers at Richbourg have targeted her son for abuse and harassment. Chambers said the School District is investigating her complaint.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine a circumstance in which a 6-year old special needs student would need to be arrested, and I understand that our Sheriff feels the same way,” Chambers said.