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Kitchener, Ontario Canada – The scribbled drawing of four-year-old Neaveh Sansone, a student at Forest Hills public school in Kitchener, didn’t exactly wind up on her daddy’s refrigerator last week. Instead her drawing of her father holding a gun led to him being arrested, strip searched and locked up for several hours until common sense finally prevailed.
When Jesse Sansone arrived at school that day to pick up his children he grew a bit concerned when he was asked to come to the principal’s office. Like any caring parent, his first thought was that one his children might have been injured or was having problems with one of their classes. It never crossed his mind that he was the one who was in trouble.
It turns out his daughter had been questioned by her teacher about the picture she had drawn. When Neaveh was asked about it she said it was a picture of her daddy and that he used the gun to shoot monsters and bad guys. The school principal had then called child protective services voicing concerns that the girl and her siblings could possibly live in a home with unsecured firearms. Children’s services subsequently called the police and they were waiting to arrest Sansone.
“I’m picking up my kids and then, next thing you know, I’m locked up,” Mr. Sansone told The Record, the local newspaper in Kitchener-Waterloo. “I was in shock. This is completely insane. My daughter drew a gun on a piece of paper at school.
Sansone was told at the school that he was being arrested for possessing an illegal firearm. The children were taken by social services. Police contacted Sansone’s wife to come down to the station, but told her very little. She and the couple’s infant son were left sitting in a waiting room for hours with no explanation beyond the blunt statement that her husband was being held on an illegal firearm charge.
Up to that point no one at the school or the police department thought to ask either of the Sansone’s if they owned a gun or why their daughter might have drawn one. The couple was simply left to wonder why they were there.
Four hours later, the police released Mr. Sansone, apologized for his “inconvenience” and finally explained why he had been arrested. He was then asked to sign a paper allowing the police to, in their words, search his home in order to ensure the children’s safety. After the search the police did allow the family to keep the plastic suction dart pistol used to shoot monsters and bad guys.
“This is obviously an isolated incident,” says Gregg Bereznick, the superintendent of education for the Waterloo Regional District School Board. “And the teacher responded in the way they are supposed to and Family and Child Services responded in the way they are supposed to.”
Waterloo Regional Police Inspector believes his department acted appropriately. “The safety of the kids has got to be primary for us and that’s where we were coming from,” says Kevin Thaler, a Waterloo Regional Police Inspector.
With directives being suggested to have family physicians in the U.S. to question patients about the presence of guns in their home, the incident gives one pause. Common sense and a few pertinent questions could have prevented the whole affair but common sense is in short supply these days.