Silly Rumor Got Girls Arrested, Family Says

     PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) – A silly rumor about chemicals in backpacks led police to arrest a pair of 8-year-old girls, one family claims in a federal complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union.
     Though officers with the Tiverton Police Department found nothing in the fourth graders’ bags, they took the children to the police station where they questioned them for hours without parental consent, according to the 33-page complaint.
     Lisa and Peter Andromalos filed the complaint on Dec. 3 with their daughter, named in the case only by her initials.
     They say J.A. and Student B’s odyssey with law enforcement began as school let out at Fort Barton Elementary on Oct. 24, 2014.
     J.A., Student B and a third girl had allegedly been talking on the school staircase about who would sit with whom on the bus, when Student B mumbled something while taking out a notebook.
     The girls laughed when J.A. joked that her friend’s mumbling “sounded like you said we’re going to play with chemicals,” according to the complaint.
     Two other fourth graders who overheard the chatter went to their teacher, and then to the guidance counselor, to report what they had heard about the “chemicals.”
     J.A. says the guidance counselor accosted her and her friend when they were waiting to board their bus.
     After J.A. and Student B denied having said anything “inappropriate,” the counselor told the tattletales not to worry, according to the complaint.
     Worry they did, however, as one of the girls told the monitor, once the bus got going, that J.A. and Student B had “chemicals” in their backpacks.
     J.A. says the bus monitor alerted the driver who stopped the bus and called the police.
     Both school and Tiverton police met the bus in the street, looked through the girls’ backpacks and found no evidence of chemicals, according to the complaint.
     Nevertheless, the police put the girls in a police cruiser and took them to the police station where they questioned them for hours, according to the complaint.
     When the school relayed the day’s events in a call to parents that night, moreover, it reported that “two students claimed to have chemicals and made threats to set a school bus on fire,” the Andromalos say.
     J.A. and her parents want punitive damages for violations of various civil rights, including due process and unreasonable search and seizure.
     The family is represented by Amato DeLuca with DeLuca & Weizenbaum and with cooperation by the ACLU.

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