Pennsylvania school calls the cops on Down syndrome kindergartener over finger gesture

This story dates back to last year but it only just made it over the transom and into my inbox this week. It takes place in Tredyffrin Township in Pennsylvania, a short way from Philadelphia. At the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District’s Valley Forge Elementary School, they ran into a “problem” with a six-year-old kindergarten student named Margot who suffers from Down syndrome. In a moment of frustration, the child raised her hand and made a gesture with her thumb and index finger simulating a gun and pointed at one of the teachers and saying, “I shoot you.” And that’s when the wheels came off the story entirely. This report comes to us from the NRA-ILA.

Last November, according to a local CBS news report, “Margot became frustrated and made a gesture that sparked a disciplinary investigation.” The girl’s mother acknowledged that Margot pointed her finger at a teacher and said, “I shoot you.”

While that’s certainly inappropriate behavior, it’s also hardly beyond the pale of a young child who’s experiencing a moment of aggravation.

Notwithstanding Margot’s young age, developmental challenges, and obvious inability to discharge an actual projectile from her bare finger, school officials convened a “threat assessment.”

Yes, once the “dangerous situation” was brought under control, the school convened a threat assessment meeting. And following standard school policy, the police were called to come to the school and evaluate the situation. While the police refused to comment on the case to reporters, Margot’s mother is now dealing with the reality that her six-year-old daughter has a record on file at the police department as having threatened a teacher.

Considering all of the school shootings that have been in the news, it’s completely logical for schools to have policies in place to deal with any threats or potentially dangerous situations. But at some point, we have to be able to distinguish between actual threats, no matter how innocuous they might seem, and the antics of a child in kindergarten. A child with Down syndrome in kindergarten no less.

Margot’s behavior that day could certainly be considered inappropriate and her parents are hopefully working with her to the best of her ability to learn not to do that again in the future. But the threat assessment panel and the police visit likely traumatized her far more than any sort of lecture would. Shouldn’t a “threat assessment” require the presence of, oh… I don’t know. An actual threat? A kindergartner’s bare finger is incapable of doing much more than possibly giving someone a poke in the eye. And you’d have to bend down for her to even have a chance at that.

It seems like there’s a lot of this going around lately. Out in Kansas last year, a 13-year-old girl also reportedly pointed a “finger gun” at several students. But in that case, after the police were called, she was put in handcuffs, arrested and charged with a felony. That story is a bit more complicated as other students were apparently frightened by her and she’d had issues before. But it still seems as if an investigation of her home to see if she had access to any firearms or other weapons would have preceded an arrest and a charge.

Some of these situations could likely be cleared up with a modicum of common sense. Sadly, we’re quickly regulating common sense out of our system in the current era.