School calls police after 6-year-old child with Down Syndrome points “finger gun” at teacher

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PHILADELPHIA, PA- It’s political correctness to the extreme.  And it’s unacceptable.

A school called police on a 6-year old child with Down syndrome after she allegedly pointed a “finger gun” at a teacher and saying, “I shoot you.”

You know, like almost every single little kid does at some point in their childhood.

Maggie Gaines told CBS Philly that her daughter, Margot, was in class at Valley Forge Elementary School in November and got frustrated with her teacher.  She made the finger gesture and said the words:

“I shoot you.”

The action triggered the teacher (pun intended) and also caused The Tredyffrin-Easttown School District to launch a full disciplinary investigation, or as they called it, a threat assessment.

A threat assessment, of the 6-year old little girl with Down syndrome, who pointed her finger.

The district insisted that their policy dictated they must contact the police for the action.

Gaines told CBS:

“They get this phone call and I was fine with everything up until calling the police.  And I said, ‘You absolutely do not have to call the police. You know, this is ridiculous.’”

Maggie Gaines is fighting a Pennsylvania school district's policy after officials at Valley Forge Elementary School called the police on her daughter Margot (pictured together) because she pretended to shoot her teacher with her fingers last November

Gaines said that the school grossly overreacted and mishandled the situation.

I, for one, would have to agree with her.

“At that point,” Gaines said, “they went to the principal’s office and it was quickly assessed that she didn’t even really know what she was saying.”

Gaines continued:

“They were asking her questions, and she was saying, ‘Oh, I shoot mommy,’ [and] 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.”

Because she is 6.

As she is a minor, Margot’s record will be sealed.  But that doesn’t change the fact that her name will forever be a part of an official police report for threats made.  Because she pointed her finger.

The district’s investigation revealed that the finger didn’t cause harm to anyone and no one was put in harms way.  Obviously.

Gaines went public with her concern over the district’s policy to contact the police over such a minor incident.  In a letter to the district, she said:

“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, there is a record at the police that says she made a threat to her teacher.”

Gaines said the policy and state law were misinterpreted and that this incident didn’t call for police contact.  She is asking the school board to amend the policy in a public meeting this week.

She also contacted Pennsylvania state Senator Andrew Dinniman regarding the incident, who shared in her concern.

Senator Dinniman released a statement regarding the matter, which read:

“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.

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.”

You know, I get it.  Schools are in a tough position.  When violent acts occur at schools, like shootings or fights or what have you, people say “How did no one at the school see this coming?” or “Why weren’t any pre-indicators of violence investigated?”

But this girl is 6-years old! 

This girl has Down syndrome and although I do not personally have a child with Down syndrome, I have done enough research and have interacted with enough kids to know that they express themselves differently sometimes.  They don’t always have the same knowledge or understanding of words or phrases, especially at such a young age.

What a terrible message to send Margot.  What a terrible message to send Maggie Gaines.  What a terrible message to send parents of children with disorders or developmental delays.

Granted, I’m not speaking unilaterally, but I know there are many parents out there of children with developmental delays who are being forced to spend thousands of dollars to send their children to special schools, because the “special education” programs in public schools aren’t cutting it. 

Schools claim they don’t have the funding to have more staff to deal with the more difficult children.  They don’t have the funding to train staff to better deal with outbursts or behavioral problems.  So they push them aside and send them away.  Or they call the cops on them.

How is it that people scream and cry and demand that public schools teach children as young as 6 how to masturbate and have anal sex (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see my previous articles here and here), and they can afford to implement new curriculum for that, but they have no funding to provide better training for teachers to deal with developmentally delayed children in an appropriate manner?

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I don’t buy that it was policy to contact police here, not in the way it went down, anyway.  Obviously, I wasn’t there. 

But, come on- they’re telling us that this teacher couldn’t have dealt with Margot in the class setting without having to escalate such a small incident into a full on “threat investigation?” 

That is absurd.  Kudos to Maggie Gaines for handling this in such a calm and mature manner (publicly, anyway).  And for taking this issue to the school board to constructively find a solution to better possible future situations for children.

Following the issue going public, the district released a statement saying, in part:

“When an individual parent concern related to our school safety practices was brought to the attention of the District two weeks ago, we agreed to review those practices in the School Board Policy Committee meeting tonight.

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.”

Of course, let’s be sure to have quality safety measures.  But let’s also be sensible about it. As state Senator Dinniman said, let’s use “judgement, experience, and common sense.”

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