Six-year-old Margot, a kindergarten student with Down Syndrome from Pennsylvania, was acting out in frustration when she pointed her finger at her teacher and said, “I shoot you” last November, according to her mother.
But the gesture unsettled her teacher who marched her down to the principal’s office where they conducted a “threat assessment” in which they probed her with questions before concluding the girl did not really intend to follow through on her threat.
Nevertheless, the principal said he was obligated by the school district to call police to allow them to conduct their own threat assessment.
After all, there is no child too young for the school-to-prison pipeline, described by the ACLU as “a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”
Essentially, minor infractions committed by children during school hours that merit detentions are turned into criminal violations that lead to jail time for the children and profits for private prisons.
According to the ACLU:
Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out.
Tredyffrin Township police investigated the matter and made no arrests but were sure to create a police file on Margot documenting that she had threatened her teacher, ready to be used against her if the need ever arises.
The incident took place in November at Valley Forge Elementary School which is part of the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District. It came to light last month after the girl’s mother, Maggie Gaines, brought it up during last month’s school board meeting.
CBS Philly broke the story and interviewed Gaines who had the following to say about the principal’s threat assessment.
“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.
“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.
Gaines contacted Pennsylvania Senator Andrew Dinniman who expressed shock and outrage that the school district is seeking guidance from police as to how to discipline elementary school children for what may have been an emotional outburst at worst.
Below are statements from both the senator and the school district obtained by CBS Philly:
“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.”
It’s important to remember that anytime the word “safety” is used by a government official in power, it can usually be substituted for the word “control” to accurately interpret what they are saying.
Watch the CBS Philly report below.