The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 18, 2013

5-year-old kindergartner with pink bubble gun suspended from school

By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

— MOUNT CARMEL — A 5-year-old kindergartner who told classmates she was going to shoot them, and then herself, with her pink bubble gun, was grilled for three hours by Mount Carmel school officials without her mother’s knowledge, then suspended, a family attorney said.

The girl was initially kicked out for 10 days in what the school categorized as a “terroristic threat,” according to the kindergartner’s mother and confirmed by the family attorney. That suspension was reduced to two days and labeled as a “threat to harm others.”

Their names are being withheld to protect the girl’s identity.

Mount Carmel Superintendent Bernard Stellar on Thursday declined comment, saying it would be a breach of confidence and that he cannot discuss student discipline issues.

The alleged incident occurred Jan. 10, while the girl 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.

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.

“This logic, which was not said in malice, came from the mind of this beautiful 5-year-old child who was playing with her friends, whom she hugs every day,” Ficker said.

Someone at the school became aware of the conversation and words used, Ficker said, “because the next day, this student was questioned by people at school and suspended.”

Ficker said the questioning apparently began around 10:30 a.m., and that the girl’s mother was contacted at 1:30 p.m.

“You’re telling me that this child was questioned by adults, in a situation where there was no parent or parental guardian, and then she was, initially, given an incident category of ‘making terrorist threats?’” Ficker asked. “And this from a 5-year-old? What’s going on here? Can’t kids be kids anymore?”

The girl was initially given a 10-day suspension.

“This is a good-natured little girl,” Ficker said. “And this shows how hysterical people who work at schools have become since Sandy Hook.”

Ficker said he was not minimizing the dangers with which schools must contend, given the Dec. 14 massacre in Connecticut.

“You can’t make light of what happened to this girl either,” Ficker said. “The incident goes on her permanent school record. She has been branded a troubled person. But she was suspended for her words. She had no gun. She had a bubble-making machine.”

The girl’s mother said her daughter has been very upset since the incident.

“All I know,” said the mother, “is what my daughter has told me and she said she was told she could go to jail, which is a very traumatic thing for a 5-year-old to live with.”

Before being allowed to return to school, Ficker said, the girl had to undergo psychological testing from an independent practitioner.

“The psychologist said that she posed no danger to others,” Ficker said. “I think it’s pathetic when little kids can’t play... or get in this kind of trouble for using the wrong words. This little girl is one of the least threatening people in the state of Pennsylvania.”

Ficker is fighting to expunge the incident from the girl’s records.

“I’m going to call the superintendent about this,” he said Thursday. “We need to expunge the record right away.

Real nuts and terrorists are winning when innocent kids are put through the ringer. Kids this age, they have fragile minds.”

That the kindergartner landed in trouble over such an incident might seem ludicrous to most, but Ficker said, “It’s not funny when a child is branded, when a child is suspended for playing with a bubble gun.”

The girl’s mother said she is also upset that she was not contacted when, for three hours, her daughter was questioned.

Ficker did not rule out suing the school district.

“We’ll see what happens at the meeting” with the district superintendent, he said.