In a case reported by CNN that highlights the paranoia gripping America, a preschooler had been suspended from her school for 10 days following her “terroristic” comment that was viewed as a threat to a classmate and the school.
Shoot you, shoot me
And what was this threat? Her comments of “shooting” her friend,”I’ll shoot you, you shoot me, and we’ll all play together,” the kindergartner said. The weapon of choice a Hello Kitty bubble gun.
The student from Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania, USA landed in the principal’s office the very next day and was sent home after being issued a 10-day suspension for a “terroristic threat,” as indicated on the suspension form signed by Mount Carmel Area Elementary School Principal Susan Nestico.
The girl was requested by the school to see a counsellor, who sat down with the suspended girl and her mother two days after the incident. The counsellor’s assessment describes the girl as an apparently “typical 5-year-old by temperament and interests” with no history of mood swings, irritability, depression, attention deficit disorder, learning issues or other problems.
“It would appear that [the girl] does not have those risk factors identified for violent behavior,” the therapist wrote. “It would also seem that [she] had no harmful or predatory intent in the comments she made to her friends about the bubble ‘gun’ but did not recognize the heightened sensitivity and awareness of her friends and the response that may result from her comments.”
An innocent comment
According to a CNN report that spoke to the family’s lawyer Robin Ficker, the pre-schooler did admit to talking about shooting the bubble gun but it was not meant as a threat as she related to the counsellor, “I didn’t mean anything bad.”
Is the school’s decision to suspend the girl an extreme over-reaction to her comment or does it signal the over sensitivity of any signs of ‘shooting’ or violence in children that could point towards another Adam Lanza and Sandy Hook massacre? The school has since lessened the girl’s suspension to two days following the counsellor’s assessments. While the authorities from Mount Carmel Area Elementary School has declined any comment with regards to the incident, the superintendent’s office for the Mount Carmel Area School District did issue a statement, stating that “by law we cannot officially comment on the specifics,” while expressing confidence that the story circulating in the media “may not be consistent with the facts.”
As news channels all over the world cover the story and the girl’s family seek for her suspension to be retracted and erased from her records, the school district has added that,”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.”
A fine line between innocence and violence
As we have seen from all the recent school shootings, violence is not restricted by age, gender or nationality. So how can we differentiate between an innocent comment to a more serious threat that is loaded with hatred?
Here are some tips for you to spot the warning signs of violence in your child.
1. Is their schoolwork suffering or is their a decline in their grades?
2. Repeatedly breaking parental rules and not listening to authority
3. Behavioral changes such as the use of profanity or loud outbursts, emotional displays such as screaming at other children or adults.
4. Aggressive tendencies such as shoving, kicking or hitting others weaker than themselves such as animals.
5. Changes in established sleep routines.