Clarification and update: At the time the girl made the comment about shooting herself with the Hello Kitty bubble gun, she didn’t have the gun with her.
She is reportedly back in school as of today.
January 22, 2013:
The title pretty much tells the story: five-year-old Pennsylvania girl says she’s going to shoot her friends and herself with a bubble gun, gets charged with making a “terroristic threat” (which seems to be the post-Columbine, post-9/11 buzz-phrase for “we can’t pin down exactly what crime you committed, but you made somebody with authority uncomfortable”), gets questioned by school officials for three hours without her parents even being notified (according to the family’s attorney), gets suspended for ten days (reduced to two days after the media picks up on the story), and is ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation before returning to class.
- He was recently charged with making a terroristic threat at a school; he was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation following an incident at a school; this 5-year-old girl managed to get both.
Now, all this being said… while virtually all news accounts omit this, one local paper mentions in passing that she was overheard saying something to the effect that she was going to shoot herself and her friends so that they can all be together. I’d say that’s something worth asking her about.
But the rest, the part they’re turning into a crime? That’s as silly as suspending a couple of 6-year-olds for pointing their fingers at one another and saying “Bang!”
When I read about the two Maryland boys being suspended last week, my first thought was that this was an old story; so I went into my own archives, of articles I’d written for About.com, AllInfoAboutCrime, Crimeweek.com, Crimeweek the Newspaper Column, CJA (I have been doing this for a while), and saw that not only is the finger-pointing story a perennial (right up there with the bank robber accidentally leaving his identification with the teller), but one month alone I wrote about 4 boys in 3 separate incidents being suspended for pointing their fingers and saying “Bang!” Plus one boy suspended for pretending to shoot his teacher with a chicken nugget.
I also noticed that I’d been railing against zero tolerance since 1998, before the phrase was even common, and as early as 2000 wrote that I’d probably be shocked if I counted up how many times I’d written the phrase “terroristic threat.”
And I found an article I thought had disappeared into the void, about my first and last time as a guest on the Montel Williams Show, discussing (you guessed it) zero tolerance.
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© 2013 by Bill Bickel unless otherwise noted.