After Sarah Sims learned her daughter was being bullied at school, the Virginia mother says she tried reaching out to officials at Ocean View Elementary.
But Sims told WAVY that those repeated calls and emails to the school were never answered.So she decided to resolve the problem herself, and put a digital recorder in her daughter’s backpack with the goal of figuring out who was tormenting her daughter.
But teachers in her daughter’s fourth grade class found the electronic device, according to Fox8, and took it away from the 9-year-old. Police also arrived and asked the young girl why she had the recorder running throughout the school day, Fox8 reported.
That was late September. Now, Sims faces both a felony and misdemeanor charge for recording kids at the Norfolk, Virginia, school without their consent, WNEM reported.
“The next thing I know I’m a felon,” she told WNEM. “I’ve got felony charges and a misdemeanor when I’m trying to look out for my kid. What do you do?”
Sims, a full-time student at Norfolk State University, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday that she recorded her daughter’s day at school because she doesn’t “always get the opportunity to be on the premises.”
“I thought that this would be a good way for me to learn the environment,” she said.
Kristin Paulding, the attorney for Sims, said she was “appalled” that the school would reportedly rush to include law enforcement in the investigation before contacting Sims.
“I was shocked to see that the school would decide to go to the police department and ultimately charge this mother,” she told KTLA5, “as opposed to sitting her down and having just a simple conversation about what were her concerns and how could the school alleviate those concerns.”
The Norfolk Police Department confirmed the charges to WNEM, and a school district spokeswoman told KTLA5 that “we are unable to comment on any pending legal matters” in an email.
Virginia, a one-party consent state, allows someone to record conversations if they are involved in the conversation or someone in the conversation has consented.
Sims has a preliminary hearing on Jan. 18. If convicted on the felony — intercepting wire, electronic or oral communications — Sims could receive up to five years in jail, according to KTLA5. She also faces a misdemeanor of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”
Sims says she is “mortified” by the thought of receiving that much time in jail for simply doing what she thought was the right thing for her daughter.
“If I’m not getting an answer from you what am I left to do?” she told WAVY. “I tried to be fair, but it’s not fair. There is nothing fair about this.”