The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting has certainly heightened everyone's sensitivity to gun violence in schools, which can be a good thing if teachers and parents maintain their sense of proportion when they spot a sulking, disaffected student, and a pretty bad thing if they start sending kids to juvenile detention facilities for shitty doodling. Imagine, then, what sort of sensitivity to gun violence it must take for the authorities at a Mount Carmel, Penn. school to suspend a five-year-old girl for making a "terroristic threat" by bringing her bubble gun to school and allegedly telling her fellow kindergartners that she was going to kill them, and then herself.
The Daily Item reports that the girl was initially suspended for ten days and her actions officially labeled a "terroristic threat." That suspension was later reduced to two days and the girl's transgression filed under the far more mild "threat to harm others." The alleged incident occurred on Jan. 10, and though Mount Carmel Superintendent Bernard Stellar declined to comment, citing privacy issues, Robin Ficker, the attorney of the girl's parents, has been fairly adamant that the school overreacted to the strange logic of a five-year-old who most likely heard, cogitated on, and repeated with the imperfect logical reasoning skills of a kindergartner something she overheard:
This logic, which was not said in malice, came from the mind of this beautiful 5-year-old child who was playing with her friends, whom she hugs every day.
"Beautiful" might be overselling what the girl actually said, but Ficker's point is valid — five-year-olds say wacky shit sometimes, and it's hard to hold a kindergartner accountable for making a violent threat, even if what comes out of that kindergartner's mouth completely horrifies adults. Characterizing a little girl brandishing a bubble gun and revealing plans of a murder/suicide to her classmates a "terroristic threat" is the height of overreaction, something that school administrators recognized when they walked back the punishment a little bit.
The girl's mother has said school administrators questioned her daughter without contacting her for "three hours," at one point even telling the girl that she could go to jail for what she'd done. Ficker's main task now is trying to get the girl's record expunged, since being branded as a gun-wielding maniac when you're five seems like a pretty rough ticket. "The incident," said Ficker, "goes on her permanent school record. She has been branded a troubled person. But she was suspended for her words. She had no gun. She had a bubble-making machine."
Before returning to school, the girl had to undergo testing and be evaluated by psychologist, who determined, according to Ficker, that the girl "posed no danger to others." Ficker also alluded to the fact that a lawsuit might not be out of the question, because if there's any way to possibly exacerbate an already bad situation, it's to introduce a kid early on to the way civil adults solve their problems: litigation.
5-year-old kindergartner with pink bubble gun suspended from school [The Daily Item]
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