A Pennsylvania mom is furious after police were called when her 6-year old daughter with Down Syndrome pointed her index finger at her teacher and said, “I shoot you.”
Maggie Gaines says she has no problem with her daughter being sent to the principal’s office over the comment, but says there was simply no need for the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District to call the police.
“I was fine with everything up until calling the police,” Gaines told CBSPhilly. “And I said, ‘You absolutely do not have to call the police. You know, this is ridiculous.’”
Gaines maintained the district’s response was a gross overreaction and should have been handled much differently.
“My daughter got frustrated and pointed her finger at her teacher and said, ‘I shoot you,’” Gaines said. “At that point, they went to the principal’s office and it was quickly assessed that she didn’t even really know what she was saying.
“She really didn’t understand what she was saying, and having Down syndrome is one aspect, but I’m sure all 6-year-olds don’t really know what that means,” Gaines added. “Now, there is a record at the police that says she made a threat to her teacher.”
Gaines says the school district is misinterpreting state law, and that there is no reason to call police when schools have determined that there is no actual threat. According to CBSPhilly, the controversy has now drawn the attention of at least one state lawmaker.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, who was contacted by the Gaines family, is expressing concern with how the school district is handling the incident.
“As a state senator, an educator, and a parent, I am concerned when I hear that such important decisions appear to be guided blindly by written policy or legal interpretation without those in positions of authority using their judgment, experience, and commonsense to weigh in. Furthermore, I am alarmed that a school seems to be acting as an extension of the police department in promulgating data and records on children as young as kindergarteners,” Dinniman said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a student’s finger gun land them in trouble. In 2019, a middle school student in Kansas faced felony charges after making a finger gun in class, while students in the same school district who brought actual firearms to school were charged with misdemeanors. After her story generated a lot of local media attention, prosecutors diverted her case and made her do community service instead of moving forward with the felony charges.
Both of these cases demonstrate an absurd inability on the part of the school district to tell the difference between actual threats and kids being kids, but they also demonstrate that public officials are quick to recognize when adverse media attention might prove problematic for them. It’s just a shame that it takes local reporters getting involved for these school districts and public officials to do the right thing.