On September 18th, a 13-year-old girl from Westridge School in Overland Park, Kansas was arrested during the school day and will be charged with a felony after pointing finger-guns at several of her classmates.
The Overland Park police received a report of concern from the school’s principal and came to remove the student from the school the day after the incident.
Some have publicly expressed concern about the incident, viewing this arrest as a sign of national fragility.
They also cited time missed in the classroom.
I understand that maybe there was history and maybe this is a little more than the playful way we used to point finger guns when I was a kid and there's certainly a place for punishment if that's the case but in no way does this constitute an arrest and especially a felony charge
— Bob K Mertz (@bblboy54) October 15, 2019
This is a servere overreaction.
— Andy (@gibsona001) October 13, 2019
The people who carry actual weapons and have the power of arrest are protecting us from a child’s fingers.
— Red Wigglers (@CadillacOfWorms) October 13, 2019
Though there is a public concern now for a 13 year-old being arrested, the Overland Park police insist there is more to the story than finger-guns.
The incident began when one of the girl’s classmates asked her to pick out “five people you would kill.” The girl then proceeded to point at five of her classmates and then pointed the finger guns at her own head.
Several of her classmates who were witness to this went home and told their parents that night. Multiple students and parents reported the girl’s behavior on the school’s website, where bullying can be reported anonymously.
When Westridge School Principal Jeremy McDonnell discovered these reports the next day, he called the girl in for a private interview. Based on her responses, McDonnell then discussed the situation with the school’s resource officer who then reached out to Overland Park Chief of Police, Frank Donchez.
The police brought the girl outside the school prior to making the arrest. Some individuals attempted to start a rumor that the police made a big display of the girl’s arrest inside the school, but Donchez insisted this was not the case.
It’s been said that, with a clean record, an arrest may have not been necessary. Donchez cannot publicly comment on the girl’s disciplinary record, because she’s a minor, but he assured the media that given what the school and police know, an arrest was warranted in this case.
The 13-year-old was taken to a juvenile detention center and is facing a criminal threat charge. She has since reportedly moved to California to live with her grandfather, John Cavanaugh, who was worried about his granddaughter’s future.
“I think that this is something that probably could have been handled in the principal’s office and got completely out of hand. She was just mouthing off.”
Fellow students, parents and staff clearly believed this was more serious than a hand gesture or “mouthing off,” however.
“Victims in this case were genuinely concerned and fearful of this individual. When you combine that with the history that we’re aware of, and the students are aware of, when you combine all that and that these individuals were genuinely in fear, that’s why the arrest was made.”
With so much history of school threats and shootings, it’s hard to draw the line between being “too careful” and “safe.” But Donchez insists the Overland Park police and Westridge School made the right decision in this case.
“I’ll take the heat all day long for arresting a 13-year-old. I’m not willing to take the heat for not preventing a school tragedy.”
Whether or not the girl had darker intentions, hopefully this will be a lesson in the inappropriateness of making such threats in schools.
Just as “joking” about bombs or hijacking a plane in today’s world is recognized as inappropriate in an airport, jokes or “mouthing off” about planning a school shooting or shooting classmates while in a school is not something any student in the United States is likely to get to laugh off after the Columbine massacre and the many that have followed.
Have you listened to the first season of George Takei’s podcast, ‘Oh Myyy Pod!‘?
In season one we explored the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.
We’re hard at work on season two so be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss it when it goes live.
Here’s one of our favorite episodes from season one. Enjoy!