Police Called On 6-Year-Old With Down Syndrome For Making Finger-Gun
An elementary school in Pennsylvania called the police on a 6-year-old girl with Down syndrome after she pretended to shoot her teacher with her fingers.
According to reports from CBS3, the girl’s mother, Maggie Gaines, has accused Tredyffrin-Easttown School District of mishandling the incident that went down last November, saying her daughter, Margot, unknowingly made a gesture which caused a disciplinary investigation. Gaines said her daughter now has a police report on record.
“My daughter got frustrated and pointed her finger at her teacher and said, ‘I shoot you,’” Gaines told the outlet this week. “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.”
Authorities at the school concluded there was no harm done, as the statement was made in frustration. The school district, however, said it was policy for them to report it to the authorities anyway.
“I was fine with everything up until calling the police,” Gaines said. “And I said, ‘You absolutely do not have to call the police. You know, this is ridiculous.’”
Gaines alleges that her daughter didn’t comprehend what she had done, much less being questioned by the school officials.
“They were asking her questions, and she was saying, ‘Oh, I shoot mommy,’ laughs, or, ‘I shoot my brother.’ The principal asked, ‘Did you mean to hurt your teacher?’ And she said no and it seemed like she didn’t even know what that meant,” Gaines explained. “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.”
Now, the family is appealing the school board to change the policy.
“The whole thing is overkill for an instance like this,” she said. “Children don’t have the same understanding as adults, these are children not adults, with not the same life experience…Now, there is a record at the police department that says she made a threat to her teacher.”
But Margot’s family aren’t the only ones who think this situation could have been dealt with better. Pennsylvania state Sen. Andrew Dinniman said he also believes the situation was mishandled.
“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 common sense to weigh in,” he said. “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.”
The Tredyffrin-Easttown School District said it would review the policy at a committee meeting. Tredyffrin Police Department Officer Joseph Glatts told the Daily Local News that such a report filed is not uncommon.
“Officers are called to take a report regardless of age. It’s just for reporting purposes,” he explained. “Juvenile records are not obtainable to anybody. Nobody can get it.”
Sources told CBS3 that Margot has no record, but her name is part of an official report.