Even after widespread news coverage, a school in Pennsylvania that called police on a six-year-old with Down Syndrome who pretended to shoot her teacher with her fingers has refused to back down and maintains it acted appropriately.
The girl’s mother, Maggie Gaines, is also appealing for the school system to rethink its policy after the incident at Valley Forge Elementary School last November.
Perhaps mimicking something she saw on television or even in a cartoon, her daughter Margot was frustrated in class and pointed her finger like a gun at the teacher and said “I shoot you.” The school got in touch with Gaines and told her it was district policy that the incident be reported to local police.
The school district has since told CNN that police didn’t create criminal or juvenile records for Margot and defended its decision to look into the case.
“Requesting a police consultation allows agencies to confer and use the information they have to plan for appropriate supports. … It is not the same as making a police report and asking for an investigation.”
The school didn’t prolong the investigation after it determined that Margot didn’t intend to harm anyone. Nonetheless, Gaines has now said that the district went “too far.”
Gaines previously said that contacting police was a severe overreaction as it was clear Margot didn’t know what “I shoot you” meant and was merely conveying frustration.
“She really didn’t understand what she was saying, and having Down syndrome is one aspect, but I’m sure all six-year-olds don’t really know what that means,” the mother said.
The mother raised the issue publicly in a letter to the school board last month, saying that school officials are misinterpreting policy and state law. Pennsylvania state Sen Andrew Dinniman, who was contacted by the Gaines family, also expressed concern with how the district handled the issue.