A Mother Tried To Record Her Daughter Being Bullied, & She Ended Up With A Felony Charge
Update: On Nov. 29, CNN reported that charges had been dropped against Sarah Sims. The charges against her previously included one felony —intercepting wire, electronic, or oral communications — and a misdemeanor — contributing to the delinquency of a minor. "After reviewing the facts and circumstances specific to this case, the office is exercising prosecutorial discretion to not pursue the prosecution of this case," commonwealth attorney's office spokeswoman Amanda Howie told CNN.
Earlier: While school bullies are often disciplined by school officials or parents, one Norfolk, Virginia, mother is claiming that her daughter's elementary school, Ocean View Elementary School, didn't do enough to intervene. The mother, Sarah Sims, says she tried to record her daughter allegedly being bullied, and she reportedly ended up with a felony charge, according to CNN. Bustle has reached out to Sims and Ocean View Elementary School for comment. We will update this post when we hear back.
Earlier Update: Daniel Hudson, Public Information Officer for the Norfolk Police Department, confirmed to Bustle in an email that on Nov. 6, Sims was charged with one felony and a misdemeanor. "There is no other information to provide," he said, citing that "the case is an ongoing investigation."
Sims told CNN her 9-year-old daughter informed her that she was allegedly being bullied at school. According to Sims, she reached out to the school administration repeatedly to get her daughter help, but allegedly no one replied to her emails or phone calls. The mother also claims her daughter was kicked and hit with a jump rope on the playground. "I wasn’t notified by the school" about the alleged incident, she said. Sims also told CNN her daughter had become anxious about attending school and began refusing to go because “she felt like she wasn't protected."
Sims told CNN she sent her daughter to school with a recording device in her backpack so that she could "get a good idea for the environment of the classroom after not getting any responses to the email."
The idea to record the school environment stemmed from Sims allegedly not having any information about her daughter's classroom, she tells CNN. "I'm a full-time student, so I don't always get the opportunity to be on the premises, and I thought that this would be a good way for me to learn [about] the environment," Sims told CNN's Don Lemon.
School officials reportedly found the device, confiscated it, and contacted the police. The police questioned Sims’ daughter, but Sims alleges that the school never contacted her about the incident. "I would like to know why I have not heard from them," she said on CNN. A month after she sent her daughter to school with the recorder, she reportedly learned that she was facing felony and misdemeanor charges. Sims faces up to five years in jail if she’s found guilty. According to Virginia law, it is legal to record a conversation when one party has consented to the recording or if one of the parties of the conversation has previously consented.
Sims’ attorney, Kristin Paulding, tells CNN she was “appalled” by the charges brought against her client. "I was shocked to see that the school would decide to go to the police department and ultimately charge this mother as opposed to sitting her down and having just a simple conversation about what were her concerns and how could the school alleviate those concerns," she told CNN. Paulding says Sims’ use of the recording device "was a way to make sure that that classroom was a safe place" for her child. But because it was confiscated, Paulding and Sims do not know if the recording captured any instances of bullying. "Unfortunately, even to this day, we don’t know what was said on that day," Paulding said.
Many people were outraged to hear that Sims was facing charges. A Change.org petition, "Drop the Charges Against Mom Protecting Her Child," has garnered nearly 1,000 signatures since being created. One commenter said, "How ridiculous that this mother is facing possible prison time for trying to protect her child. Truly sad." One user on Twitter acknowledged the need for privacy laws, but also saw that these charges were excessive: I don't want my daughter recorded without my consent. Should the mom be further prosecuted? No," they said.
Sims' court date is set for Jan. 18, 2018.