Parents Are Left in the Dark as 8-Year-Old Is Questioned By Police About Backpack Contents

school busFurther proof that we live in a crazy, crazy world: A family is suing their Rhode Island town because their 8-year-old daughter was taken off her school bus by police and questioned for hours without their consent, all because another kid said she had "chemicals" in her backpack (when she clearly didn't).

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It all started innocently enough, with what sounds sort of like an accidental game of "Telephone." According to the lawsuit, the third grader (who is only identified by the initials J.A.) was on the playground when she misheard what another child was saying.  "It sounded like you said, 'We're going to play with chemicals,'" she told her friend. The girls laughed about the mix-up, not knowing that two other girls were listening. Except they were only half-listening, apparently, because they just caught the "play with chemicals" part -- then promptly told a fourth grade teacher that J.A. and her friend were talking about chemicals. The teacher told them to tell a guidance counselor, which they did; the guidance counselor then questioned J.A. and her friend about it while they were in the bus line to go home, but apparently let the matter drop.

This story should have ended there (actually it never should have started), but THEN the girls who reported the "chemicals" comment to the teacher and guidance counselor brought it up again, this time to the bus monitor -- after the bus had already left school. The bus driver pulled over and called the police, who showed up with two school superintendents, took the girls off the bus and searched their backpacks. Then, even though the police didn't find any "chemicals" or anything else, they took the girls to the police station for questioning. Only "at some point" while the girls were at the station were their parents called, and they weren't released for several hours. 

As one might expect after such an ordeal, J.A.'s parents, Lisa and Peter Andromalos, are suing the town of Tiverton for "unspecified damages." But their lawyer, Amato DeLuca, says the suit isn't about the money -- it's about preventing this kind of thing from happening again. Indeed. It's outrageous enough that it happened once!! As a mother, if this happened to one of my kids I would be furious -- beyond furious. At so many people! I get that the bus monitor and driver reacted the way they did -- considering they weren't around to witness the first round of chemical-related accusations. But why did the police take the kids in for questioning when they didn't find anything in their backpacks? Are you telling me that these officers took two third-graders to the station in the back of their cruiser because two OTHER third-graders made up a lie about them? Now that I know that can happen, I'm surprised more third graders aren't in jail, quite frankly.

Seriously, though, I truly don't understand why there isn't a law requiring parents to be present when their 8-year-old child is being questioned by police -- or at least for parents to give their consent first. If police didn't contact the parents, why didn't the school? If two superintendents were on the scene, surely ONE of them must have considered making the call! It's scary and sad to think of how traumatized these girls must have been, and their parents didn't even know what was going on! 

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I don't blame these parents for suing one bit, and I hope they win, too. Even the Town Administrator, Matthew Wojcik, said he was "disappointed" by the incident (which should bode well for this family). And let's also hope that little J.A. isn't too scarred by the whole thing!

 

Image via Phil Roeder/Flickr

 

 

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