Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Throw Down The Teddy Bear And Step Away From The Big Wheel

This country is becoming more and more dangerous. We're not talking about the threat of terrorist attack, or random violence on the job, or even the president's social security plan. We're talking about roving bands of third graders.

Three third graders were playing with a spray can of Mace on the playground when it went off, causing fumes to land on three other students. Police responded quickly and cordoned off the block. After a tense standoff, the three came out of the girls bathroom after the officers shut the light off and made scary sounds.

The 10-year-old who brought in the can was charged with having a weapon on school property.Joseline Perez, her nine year old accomplice and driver of the getaway trike, said the canister of Mace fell out of her friend's pocket when they were on the playground. She thought it was perfume, she said, and as she picked it up, it discharged toward the ground. Another accomplice, who has so far eluded police with tracking dogs, then sprayed it into the air, according to the girl's attorney.

Perez and her friends were handcuffed together, side by side. "I felt real scared." Joseline said. When she got to the police station, she said, she cried because "the policeman told me I had to stay in lockup until I stopped acting like a little baby."

The school district suspended the children for five days, and they face disciplinary hearings, which could result in their being removed from the school. "Our policy is to be safe rather than sorry," said Principal Jack Blackstrap. "You never know what's going through the heads of these immigrant children. Half of them don't even speak English very good."

This isn't the first time Philadelphia police have averted a tragedy. Earlier this year, a 10-year-old girl who brought scissors to school, but did not attempt to run with them was handcuffed and taken to a nearby precinct where she admitted to a series of bank robberies after she was told she wouldn't have to go straight to bed with no supper. Her mother, however, has taken away her television privileges and she has to come straight home after school. "And she can gosh well forget about the sleep over at Jenny Claven's house this weekend too," according to her father.

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