The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

January 18, 2013

Threat of using 'bubble gun' gets 5-year-old suspended

MOUNT CARMEL, Pa. — A 5-year-old kindergartner who told classmates she was going to shoot them, and then herself, with her pink gun that shoots bubbles, was grilled for three hours by school officials without her mother’s knowledge, and then suspended.

The school categorized her actions as a “terroristic threat,” according to the kindergartner’s mother and confirmed by the family attorney. That suspension was later reduced to two days and labeled as a “threat to harm others.”

Mount Carmel Superintendent Bernard Stellar 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 the next day, the little girl  was questioned.

The attorney said this is an example of how school officials have overreacted  since the shooting in December at an elementary school in Connecticut where 20 children were killed.

“You can’t make light of what happened to this girl either,” Ficker said. “The incident goes on her permanent school record.”

The girl’s mother said her daughter has been very upset since the incident. The 5-year-old expressed fears that she could be sent to jail.

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

Ficker is fighting to expunge the incident from the girl’s records. He did not rule out suing the school district.

Details for this story were provided by The Daily Item in Sunbury, Pa.

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