The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 22, 2013

Attorney tells Mount Carmel district to clear girl, 5

By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

MOUNT CARMEL — The lawyer representing the 5-year-old kindergartner who told classmates she was going to shoot them with her harmless bubbles gun, said he thought it was ridiculous that the little girl is still being labeled by Mount Carmel school officials as a “threat to harm others.”

The alleged incident occurred Jan. 10, while the girl, who is not being identified because of her age, was waiting in a school bus line.

According to Robin Ficker, of Bethesda, Md., the parents’ lawyer, the kindergartner was playing with two friends and spoke about her Hello Kitty Bubble Gun, which shoots bubbles — not bullets.

Ficker said the girl mentioned that she was going to shoot one of her friends and then herself with the bubble gun, so that they could all be together. Then, she was going to shoot herself again when she got home.

When someone at the school learned what the kindergartner said, the young girl was questioned by various school officials.

The girl was initially suspended for 10 days for being what the school said was a “terroristic threat,” according to the kindergartner’s mother and confirmed by the family attorney. That suspension was subsequently reduced to two days, although she was still labeled a threat.



Attorney: Admit mistake

“I don’t understand why the school district doesn’t put this all behind them,” Ficker said. “Admit you made a mistake, apologize to the family and expunge these labels from her record. Do they really still think she’s a threat to others? Their own psychologist said she isn’t.”

On Saturday, Mount Carmel Area School District Superintendent Bernard Stellar released a statement, saying, “The Mount Carmel Area School District has been criticized for the handling of an incident that occurred recently. Although by law we cannot officially comment on the specifics of the incident involving the students, we are confident that much of the information supplied to the media may not be consistent with the facts in this matter. The Mount Carmel Area School District has investigated the issue and will continue to do so.”

Stellar then said, “When given the opportunity in the appropriate forum, we look forward to presenting information that will portray our school district in a more positive light.

“The Mount Carmel Area School District takes the well-being and safety of students and staff very seriously. In discipline matters, all circumstances are taken into consideration when arriving at decisions. It is the vision of the Mount Carmel Area Educational Community to create a safe learning environment that nurtures the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of each child.”



‘Stonewalling’?

Upon hearing the statement, Ficker suggested the district was “stonewalling.”

“Are they really trying to argue that this little 5-year-old girl understood the implications of the words she was saying? Look, the bottom line is they are in error and they need to admit it.”

Ficker said he will come to Mount Carmel on Jan. 30 for a 2 p.m. meeting with district solicitor Edward Greco to discuss the suspension.

“I’m looking for nothing less than a complete expunging of all this from that girl’s permanent school  records,” he said. “She has been branded a troubled person. But she was suspended for the words she was saying. She had no gun. She had a bubble-making machine.”