Pennsylvania police called after kindergartner with Down syndrome makes gun sign, tells teacher: ‘I shoot you’
A Pennsylvania elementary school called the police after a kindergartner with Down syndrome pointed her finger like a gun and said she was going to shoot her teacher, the child’s mother claims.
The 6-year-old at the Valley Forge Elementary School in Tredyffrin, located about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia, allegedly pointed her finger like a gun at her teacher in November, telling her, “I shoot you.”
The teacher brought the child to the principal’s office. Under school policy, the principal began a “threat assessment.” After asking the girl a series of questions, the assessment determined she made a “transient” threat, meaning she expressed anger but did not mean to harm anyone. The school did not pursue disciplinary action but did report the incident to the police department.
The girl’s mother, Maggie Gaines, is pleading with the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District to reconsider its “threat assessment” policy, arguing that her 6-year-old now has a police record for threatening her teacher without enough context about the situation or her disability, which could be used against her in the future.
“I imagine the utterance was not unlike the instances when I’ve told her it’s time for bed and she says, “I hate bed. I hate mommy,” the mother wrote in a statement to the school board. “As most parents can attest, I have learned not to take offense. For I know that a short time later she is usually cuddled up to me, while we read bedtime stories and exchange kisses and cuddles before saying good-night.”
Gaines also asked that the information about her daughter be expunged from the police record. In her statement, she claimed an officer told her the information was entered into the department’s database and was publicly available.
But Police Chief Mike Beatty said the incident report included the child’s name, address, age and disclosed her disability, but was “not releasable.” The child does not have a criminal record, Beatty said, according to website SAVVY Main Line.
The school district maintained it followed policy by consulting with law enforcement after the incident but has agreed to review its “threat assessment” protocol.
“When developing the current practice, the District worked collaboratively with parents, law enforcement and private safety/mental health agencies and legal consultants to ensure our safety measures reflected considerable input from both our local community and experts in the field of school safety,” Tredyffrin-Easttown School District said in a statement to Philadelphia’s KYW-TV.