A 13-year-old girl in Overland Park, Kansas, was arrested last month and charged with a felony after police say her classmates claim she made a “gun-like hand gesture” at multiple students.
The girl, who is a student at Westridge Middle School, flashed the “finger gun” at four fellow students and then toward herself on September 18 after her classmates asked her which five people in the classroom she would kill, said Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez.
The student, who remains unidentified due to laws protecting her privacy, was arrested and charged the day following the incident for threatening a mass shooting, according to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office. The girl admitted to threatening others, the police have said.
Donchez told 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.”
The context of the conversation remains unclear but the girl is now living in California, according to the Kansas City Star.
The girl’s grandfather, Jon Cavanaugh, says that she was simply mouthing off. He told the Star:
“I think that this is something that probably could have been handled in the principal’s office and got completely out of hand.”
However, Donchez insists that her classmates had felt legitimately “fearful” of her based on previous encounters, including one incident that was investigated and resulted in her facing some time in juvenile detention.
Dave Smith, a spokesman for the Shawnee Mission School District, told KSHB 41:
“I want to be very clear: The arrest of this student was wholly unrelated to any district policy. It was a municipal police department decision, and our policies don’t impact police department decisions.”
In a statement, police said:
“Ensuring the safety of everyone in a school, or community, is a top priority and requires constant vigilance, parents reminding their children of proper behavior in school and an understanding by the public that each case is thoroughly investigated before any arrest is made and a charge filed.”
On Tuesday, she will appear as a juvenile Tuesday at the District Court of Johnson County.
The girl’s arrest highlights the tense situation at schools across the United States, as well as the region. Just last month at nearby Hocker Grove Middle School, two 13-year-old students showed up to school with real guns stashed in their backpacks.
The children were charged with misdemeanors and the Hocker Grove principal said that no evidence suggested the teens planned to use their guns at school.
However, in the case of the young girl, threatening is a felony. Such charges could haunt her in the future, as felony charges can undermine students’ chances of being accepted into some colleges or the U.S. military.
If convicted, the girl could face a year at a juvenile detention center. Cavanaugh said:
“I’m really worried about my granddaughter’s future.”