Girl in Mount Carmel bubble gun case to go back to school
MOUNT CARMEL - A 5-year-old kindergarten student at Mount Carmel Area Elementary School was scheduled to return to classes this morning after an agreement was reached Wednesday afternoon between her attorney and school district officials involving her suspension earlier this month for allegedly telling two classmates that she was going to shoot them and herself with a pink Hello Kitty Bubbles Gun.
Attorney Robin Ficker, of Bethesa, Md., and his client, Kelly Guarna, of Mount Carmel, told The News-Item they are satisfied with the resolution reached during a meeting in the district office at the high school that lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The agreement calls for Guarna's 5-year-old girl to return to school today and reportedly expunges her suspension from her scholastic record.
During a telephone interview after the meeting, Guarna said, "We got everything we requested. I wasn't after any money in this. I just wanted what was in the best interests of my daughter. I just want this whole thing to be over with and I'm satisfied with the agreement that was reached."
When asked if she was still considering suing the district over its action to suspend her daughter, she replied, "As long as they hold up their end of the bargain, I don't plan on filing any lawsuits."
Ficker added, "I'm delighted with what's happened today. We are very satisfied with the eight elements of the agreement that were reached. I wouldn't be headed back to Maryland if I wasn't satisfied with the results of the meeting."
Ficker and Guarna met with Mount Carmel Area Superintendent Bernie Stellar, school district solicitor Edward Greco and Attorney Jim Kutz of Harrisburg to discuss the issue. Also in attendance were Guarna's mother and aunt.
"I want to thank Mr. Stellar and Mr. Greco for being so friendly, reasonable and understanding," said Ficker. "I came up here to resolve the matter and my mission was accomplished. My motto is - Forward ever, backward never."
The attorney wouldn't specify if the resolution reached Wednesday involved having the suspension removed from the girl's record or what each of the elements in the agreement involved. But both his and Guarna's statements implied the suspension was expunged since that was one of the major issues they were seeking to have resolved.
Ficker concluded, "Let's just say I don't plan on coming back here. I just want that beautiful girl and Mount Carmel Area School District to know that they have a friend in Maryland."
Greco, who couldn't comment on the specifics of the agreement, said Wednesday night, "It was a very productive meeting and the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties."
Last week, Mount Carmel Area School District officials, who have been heavily criticized over the suspension of the girl, claimed information provided to the media about the incident may not be consistent with the facts.
The statement from the district read, "The Mount Carmel Area School District has investigated the issue and will continue to do so. When given the opportunity in the appropriate forum, we look forward to presenting information that will portray our school district in a more positive light."
The statement continued, "The Mount Carmel Area School District takes the well-being and safety of students and staff very seriously. In discipline matters, all circumstances are taken into consideration when arriving at decisions.
"It is the vision of the Mount Carmel Area educational community to create a safe learning environment that nurtures the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of each child."
No other statements had been issued by district officials prior to the matter being resolved.
Ficker previously said the child was reportedly questioned about the incident for three hours before her mother was contacted.
Ficker said the girl, who did not have the toy in her possession at school, was initially suspended for 10 days by Mount Carmel Area Elementary School Principal Susan Nestico in what the school classified as a "terroristic threat." The suspension was later reduced to two days and labeled a "threat to harm others."
On Jan. 18, Stellar said he couldn't comment on the incident or suspension because he's not allowed to discuss student discipline issues.
The alleged incident occurred Thursday, Jan. 10. Police were not involved in the incident.
According to Guarna, her daughter returned to school briefly after the two-day suspension expired. She said her last day of classes was Jan. 16. Guarna said she had been getting her daughter's assignments brought home to her since she stopped going to school.
Guarna initially told The News-Item that she didn't want to discuss the incident with the media, but shortly after Ficker discussed the outcome of Wednesday's meeting on the telephone, she called The News-Item to speak with a reporter.
During a telephone interview with The News-Item on Jan. 18, Ficker said the 5-year-old girl was playing with two friends while waiting in line for the bus while still inside her classroom and spoke about her Hello Kitty Bubbles Gun, which shoots bubbles.
Ficker said the kindergartner mentioned she was going to shoot two of her friends and then herself with the bubbles gun so that they could all be together. Then, she was going to shoot herself again when she got home.
Ficker said someone at the school became aware of the conversation and reported it to administrators.
The attorney said Guarna told him her daughter has been very upset since the incident.