Kindergarten Girl Charged With Making a ”Terroristic Threat” — With a Hello Kitty Bubble Gun

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.

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11 Responses to Kindergarten Girl Charged With Making a ”Terroristic Threat” — With a Hello Kitty Bubble Gun

  1. billbickel Bill Bickel says:

    Oh, and a couple of fairly obvious follow-ups: the psychological evaluation came back “normal,” and the girl’s parents are suing the school — for now, just to have the incident removed from their daughter’s record.

    So 5-year-olds have “permanent records” now? Or are they expunged by the time they learn to read? You’d hate to think of some kid applying to college, and there’s a notation on his school record that he wet himself one day during kindergarten recess.

  2. Mark in Boston Mark in Boston says:

    She wanted to shoot herself and her friends so that they could all be together? Did she mean in Jesus’ heaven? Why is nobody complaining about how Christian education damages children’s minds?

  3. guero guero says:

    She wanted to shoot herself and her friends so that they could all be together. It is not in quotes. The only context given is that she was overheard talking with her classmates. Overheard by an adult? Another classmate? Did they hear the entire conversation and context? What we do know is that she was talking about a TOY BUBBLE MACHINE for cryin’ out loud. Do we now start worrying about depressed 5 year olds contemplating suicide pacts using bubble makers? Give me a break.

    This does bring to mind a great new quote: “You can have my Hello Kitty Bubble Gun when you pry it from my cold dead hand.”

  4. Proginoskes Proginoskes says:

    Should they have questioned her about her comment? Yes; something major could have been happening in her life.

    For three hours? No.

  5. Orville Banks Orville Banks says:

    A lot of mail came in last week about my story on the kids suspended (and facing expulsion hearings) for playing with a “weapon” on school grounds — a squirt gun. A few people didn’t understand the story: it was not “about” water guns. It was “about” the “Zero-Tolerance” trend in schools. There are obviously problems in schools from such things as drugs and violence. But terrorizing children with inflexible rules is not the answer. School principals have always had the responsibility to make and enforce rules, and punish accordingly when those rules are broken. “Zero-Tolerance” laws take that responsibility away. They mandate certain responses that can be way out of proportion to the rule violation in question. That is what these stories are about. “This is True” has reported on a fair number of these knee-jerk reactions to non-events. Children are put into the position of being treated as felons by being suspended and/or expelled over obvious toys — the very same thing that would happen if they brought real guns to school. What happened to the punishment fitting the “crime”? What happened to justice? What happened to the education of these children? All of that is being ignored in the name of “Zero-Tolerance”. Sure, in many cases the kids broke a rule, and those rules have a purpose (e.g., to avoid tragic shootings by police who think the guns are real). Most cases call for, at most, a stern talk in the principal’s office — not suspension, expulsion, police involvement or press conferences (as many of these cases have seen). It seems to me that if we feel a need to expel kids over water guns, there must not be many real problems our society needs to deal with.

  6. Wendy Wendy says:

    I just warned my daughter about this the other day. She was making an odd noise and hand gesture, and I thought she was pretending to shoot a gun (turns out it was a bad imitation of a light saber), so I made it clear to her that the people in charge of the schools have gone a little crazy on the “no guns” issue, and that kids have been suspended for pointing fingers and saying “bang”. She was very surprised, because she’s a smart kid who can see just how silly these rules are. I avoided telling her the real reason (i.e. Newtown, etc), since she’s only 9. Her main reaction was disappointment that she couldn’t play a Jedi fighting droids, since the droids use guns. I told her that AFAIK, sword fighting and thus light sabers are still okay at school. :)

  7. james james says:

    When my godson was a precocious 5-year old, his mom volunteered in his preschool class one day. While they were playing with Legos, his mom asked if he was making a gun. “Oh no,” he replied, “we aren’t allowed to make guns. I’m making a nuclear attack submarine.”

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