TREDYFFRIN TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — The mother of a 6-year-old with Down syndrome says the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District mishandled an incident involving her daughter after she pretended to shoot her teacher with her finger. Maggie Gaines says 6-year-old Margot, a student at Valley Forge Elementary School, now has a police report on file.
In November, Margot became frustrated and made a gesture that sparked a disciplinary investigation.
The Tredyffrin-Easttown School District calls it a threat assessment.
It was concluded nobody was in harm’s way as a result of Margot’s statement and her words were labeled a transient threat, which Gaines explains was an expression of anger.
However, the district said its policy still called for the police to be contacted.
“They get this phone call and 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.’”
Even though police sources confirm it is a confidential record, Gaines fears potential ramifications for her daughter.
“My daughter got frustrated and pointed her finger at her teacher and said, ‘I shoot you,’” Gaines said. “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.”
Gaines said it was a severe overreaction by the school district and that they could’ve responded to the issue in a much different way.
“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 stated.
Sources tell CBS3 Margot has no record, but her name is part of an official report.
Last month, Gaines went public about the incident in a letter to the school board. She says school officials are misinterpreting policy and state law.
“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,” Gaines said. “Now, there is a record at the police that says she made a threat to her teacher.”
The family is now appealing to the school board to amend this policy and the meeting is tonight.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, who was contacted by the Gaines family, is expressing concern with how the school district is handling the incident.
“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 commonsense 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,” Dinniman said in a statement.
The Tredyffrin-Easttown School District said in a statement, 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.”
Police said they could not comment.
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