January 21, 2013-On Fox Business "Willis Report" Attorney Sharon Liko discussed the collateral consequences of a child unnceccessarily suspended for making terrorist threats.
Willis: Tonight's top story takes us to Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania; a suburb located about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Officials at an elementary school there have suspended the five year old girl over what they call terrorist threats after the kindergartner reportedly told a classmate that she wanted to shoot her with a Hello Kitty bubble gun-- like the one here the kind that shoots soapy bubbles. At first the girl received a 10-day suspension, but that was later reduced to two days after the family hired an attorney.
The girl has since received a psychological evaluation has been found to be no threat to others. Joining me now Robin Ficker, the attorney for the girl's family, and Sharon Liko, a defense attorney. Robin, I'll start with you. Tell us more about the fact that the case. I understand that the event didn't even happen on school property.
Ficker: Well it happened in a bus line and there was no bubble gun. She was referring to a Hello Kitty bubble gun, which just shoot bubbles and bubbles don't hurt you. Even the school psychologist appointed by the school came to the conclusion that said she has no harmful or predatory intent in the comments made to her friends about the bubble gun and does not have those risk factors identified for violent behavior. So why won't they strike this from her record? Why won’t they expunge it?
Willis: Well let’s get to that in just a second. I want to bring in Sharon. You know at Newtown Connecticut about a month ago? Are the school officials responding over responding to what happened there?
Liko: You can say they're over responding but they'd gone completely off the charts. I mean you can respond responsibly, but these people are being complete buffoons. This is a five year old kid! Five-years-old! She doesn't have the requisite intent to do anything of that nature yet they had labeled there as a terroristic threat. Hello a terrorist threat? I mean they've got to think about what they do. They’ve got to use their common sense, but they don't they just react. I mean our schools need a lot of work and they need to revamp how they're teaching our kids and what they're teaching them.
Willis: Robin to you, it seems to made at and I'm no expert on child psychology, but it seems to me if you're concerned about kids and their reaction to Newtown that the last thing you would do is scare them all over again. And this poor little girl as I understand it she was sort of outed publicly in class.This wasn't something that was quietly handled. It was very embarrassing for her.
Ficker: She was brought in front of the class and told they might call the police; that she might be put in jail; then she was interrogated by two other administrative personnel without her mother being there. She was scared to death. She’s had trouble sleeping. And, furthermore, she can’t transfer to another school because she has this black mark on her record. Why won't they expunge this harmless child's record?
Willis: Well, Sharon just elaborate on that. She is now accused of threatening to harm another student. This remains on her record. To me this is so crazy. Don't kids do this every single day? Play at things? That’s one of the ways we work out our frustration. Why can't the school officials see that?
Liko: I guess that they've just gone stupid They don't use their common sense and these are the same people that ban playing musical chairs because somebody has to lose They’ve got to bring common sense back into the classroom They’ve got to bring common sense into what they're teaching kids They react and I think that the school system is fear based at this point in time that they just are about inept. They don’t teach.
Willis: I think they're exporting their fear to the kids now. Robin, to you. We got a statement from the school district late this afternoon right before the show. Here's what they had to say.
The Mount Carmel Area School District has been criticized for the handling an incident that occurred recently very oblique. Although by law we can officially comment on the specifics of the incident involving the students, we are confident that much of the information supplied to the media may not be consistent with the facts in this matter. The school district has investigated the issue will continue to do so. Do you have anything wrong her, Robin?
Ficker: There's nothing wrong. They might say there were some other words uttered but on yahoo.com news, for instance there've been more than 16,000 comments from the public across the country almost all condemning the school's actions. So there'd simply covering their “you know what” and not protecting, not acting in the best interest at this five-year-old.
Willis: Sharon, the gun was not a gun. The threat was not a threat. How do we get to this place where school officials, school administrators feel like they're backed in a corner and they have to do something this extreme this kind of case? What’s the mindset do you think of school administrators?
Liko: They’re afraid being sued. Because look at how things have just gotten so far out a hand from when I was a kid. I mean, teachers are afraid have been accused doing something, calling somebody not the best, giving somebody a B, disciplining a kid because they don't show up to class.
And then these teachers are called on the carpet and have to defend themselves against some seven-year-old claiming that the teacher said something mean. To me, these teachers they can't, they lack the confidence and I can understand why. Because the system undermines them when they allow this kind of stuff to take down school districts to take down teachers. It's not right and there's so much competition for federal funding. There’s schools are closing left and right. They’re afraid
Willis: Robin tell me what happens next this little girl—a.) How is she doing? And b.) Where did she go next? Because I understand she can't get into another school with this on a record.
Robin: She's staying at home with mom. I’m meeting with the school board attorney, but quite frankly he should cancel the meeting and expunge her record. She has done nothing wrong here. She's harmless. Their own psychologist says so. So why are they trying to protect themselves? They should have the interests of the child at heart and not protecting their administrative personnel, who are clueless.
Willis: Well course we'll be happy to have a school administrator on. Thanks to both of you for coming on tonight. Robin and Sharon thanks so much. Great to hear from you an amazing story, just amazing. Thank you so much.