Michael Chaplin could lose custody of his 13-year-old son Ethan because the boy allegedly twirled a pencil like a gun at school. That sounds extreme, but New Jersey state social workers are claiming the father’s lack of cooperation with them indicates abuse or neglect.
“I received a letter from them saying they had found an incident of abuse or neglect regarding Ethan because I refused to take him for a psychological evaluation,” Michael Chaplin said of two New Jersey state agencies. The June letter came after Ethan earned minor celebrity status in April for being disciplined at school for twirling a pencil like a gun.
School officials eventually cleared Ethan and even sent Michael a letter stating his son had done nothing wrong. The New Jersey Departments of Child Protection and Permanency, and Children and Families disagreed.
State Threatens to Terminate Parental Rights
The departments demanded that Chaplin take Ethan for “evaluation,” which he did. Evaluation consisted of blood and urine tests and a psychological report, TV station WPIX reported. Even though those tests resulted in good news and favored the family, Chaplin received another letter threatening to take custody.
The departments are threatening to “terminate” Chaplin’s parental rights which means Ethan would be placed for adoption. Presumably, that means the boy could be placed in foster care.
“All I can do is keep fighting, keep telling the truth and (keep) presenting the evidence,” Michael Chaplin said. “That is all I can do and hopefully the state does the right thing.”
Chaplin has contacted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to see if the Republican could help. Christie’s office told Channel 11 that they had contacted the Department of Children and Families on Chaplin’s behalf.
“I’m scared because they have a habit of running away with things unchecked and that’s exactly what’s going on,” Michael Chaplin said.
Fighting for Son
This is the second time in the past few months that Michael Chaplin has had to fight for his son. In April, the Vernon Township School District removed Ethan from class because another student accused him of twirling a pencil like a gun.
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“He was kind of twirling his pencil, looking at the teacher,” Michael Chaplin said of Ethan. “And the child behind him blurts out, in the middle of class, ‘He’s making gun motions, send him to (juvenile detention!)’”
Ethan had to stay home from school for two days until he was cleared through a psychological evaluation, WPIX reported. Once he was cleared, Ethan was allowed to return to school.
Removed Because of Allegations
Ethan denies that he twirled the pencil like a gun. He was suspended and forced to undergo a psychological evaluation based solely upon another student’s allegations.
The school district says that’s not what happened.
“I don’t think any district in New Jersey or America would ever suspend a student for twirling a pencil,” Vernon Township School Superintendent Charles Maranzano said. “That’s ludicrous.”
Maranzano said officials had to remove Ethan from school because of a fear of violence and zero tolerance. He told WPIX that every incident in which a student mimics a gun must be investigated.
“Since 1999, when Columbine became a huge issue for us, we live now in a different world of public education,” Maranzano said. “We’re supposed to be responsible for the psychological well-being of every student who walks in the door of American public schools. A daunting task.”
Should the boy have been suspended? Should the state have gotten involved? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.