Officials with a school in Pennsylvania called police after a 6-year-old girl with Down syndrome reportedly directed a finger-gun gesture at a teacher.
Maggie Gaines, mother of little Margot, a student at Valley Forge Elementary School in the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, told KYW-TV she believes the administration “mishandled” the ordeal, which took place in November.
“I was fine with everything up until calling the police,” she explained. “And I said, ‘You absolutely do not have to call the police. You know, this is ridiculous.’”
“My daughter got frustrated and pointed her finger at her teacher and said, ‘I shoot you,’” Gaines continued. “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.”
Margot’s gesture triggered a disciplinary investigation. From there, it was determined by the school the little girl was expressing her anger but didn’t understand the gravity of what she was suggesting by her gesture or words.
Nevertheless, according to the KYW-TV report, it is school policy to contact police.
Even state Rep. Andrew Dinniman (D) felt the school overreacted.
In a statement of his own, Dinniman said he is “concerned” to see important decisions — like the one regarding Margot — “guided blindly by written policy or legal interpretation without those in positions of authority using their judgment, experience, and common sense to weigh in.”
“Furthermore,” he said, “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.”
Officials with the district explained in a statement that, when the matter was raised, the school “agreed to review” its procedures, noting that the current policies were developed through collaborative work “with parents, law enforcement and private safety/mental health agencies and legal consultants.”
Joseph Glatts, an officer with the Tredyffrin Police Department, said the situation that unfolded at Valley Forge Elementary School is not all that uncommon.
“Officers are called to take a report regardless of age,” he told Daily Local News. “It’s just for reporting purposes. Juvenile records are not obtainable to anybody. Nobody can get it.”
“We understand the situation and concern,” the officer added, “but the records are not obtainable to anyone.”