A 13-year-old Kansas girl has been slapped with a felony charge for pointing a “finger gun” at her classmates.
“If someone makes a direct threat to another person to do harm to another person, that is considered criminal threat and that would be a felony,” Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said, according to WDAF.
The incident took place last month at Westridge Middle School in Overland Park, Kansas. According to a source whose name was not disclosed by The Kansas City Star, the incident happened in the context of a class discussion.
The girl in question was asked by another student whom the girl would pick if she could kill five people in the class. The girl then is alleged to have pointed her “finger gun” at four classmates and then at herself.
Students reported the incident on the school district’s anti-bullying app, The Washington Post reported. However, the school was quick to point the finger at police for the actual arrest.
“We don’t do that,” school spokesman David Smith told the Star. “That is not our job.”
Smith said pointing a finger gun might trigger the district’s policy against intimidation and bullying.
“I might not have anything in my hand but I might be so clear that the individual definitely feels threatened,” Smith said.
However, Smith admitted there was no imminent threat.
“No actual weapon [was] found…it was a finger pointed like a gun,” he said.
Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said police responded to concerns expressed by students, according to USA Today.
“Overnight, some of those students contacted the school administration and expressed their fear of this individual, that based on this incident, they were in genuine fear of this individual,” he said told USA Today.
Donchez said that as a result of past encounters with the student who was arrested, fellow students were “fearful” of her.
Johnson County District Court documents said that the girl, whose name has not been released, “unlawfully and feloniously communicated a threat to commit violence, with the intent to place another, in fear, or with the intent to cause the evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities.”
The girl is now living in California with her grandfather, Jon Cavanaugh, according to the Star.
Cavanaugh told the newspaper he didn’t buy the authorities’ take on events.
“I think that this is something that probably could have been handled in the principal’s office and got completely out of hand,” he said. “She was just mouthing off.”
The girl’s felony charge comes in contrast to misdemeanor charges filed against two 13-year-old boys elsewhere in the Shawnee Mission School District, of which Westridge school is part.
The boys in that case had actual guns, but had made no threat to use them, the Star reported.
“It seems a little bit of an anomaly, you would think that having the actual gun that would be the more serious charge, but in fact it’s the actual threat,” Howe told WDAF, the Fox station in Kansas City.
Howe said the girl is not likely to face jail time.
“In most instances, an individual with that kind of charge would be eligible for some kind of diversion plan,” he told WDAF. “It would be extremely difficult, almost impossible, under the current juvenile justice system to actually send them to the correctional facility for that type of behavior because it is such a low-level offense, it would not meet the criteria needed.”
Howe said that given past school shootings, authorities cannot treat any incident lightly.
“I think law enforcement and schools understand that we need to address bad behavior,” he told the station. “Not be heavy-handed but at the same time, address that bad behavior and prevent it from getting worse.”