Sarah Sims wanted to prove that no one was protecting her daughter from bullies at her elementary school. Now, she’s in danger of going to jail.
As WAVY reports, the mom from Norfolk, Virginia, tried to talk to administrators at Ocean View Elementary about students bullying her 9-year-old daughter. According to the Norfolk Public Schools website, bullying is not tolerated, and a form is provided to report bullying at school.
But when Sims’s calls and emails went unanswered, as WAVY put it, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Determined to prove that her daughter was being bullied — and that nothing was being done to help — Sims hid a digital recording device in her daughter’s backpack. She hoped it would capture audio from the class that would help her make her case to the school. In the video below, she told WAVY:
“If I’m not getting an answer from you what am I left to do?”
But Sims’s plan backfired. The recording device was found. Her daughter was moved to a different class.
Several weeks later, Sims got a visit from the police. She was being charged with felony use of a device to intercept oral communication. Because she put the recorder in her daughter’s backpack, there was an added misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the legality of recording a conversation (whether by phone or in person) varies from state to state. Federal law requires only one party to consent to being recorded, and 38 states (plus the District of Columbia) allow a person to record a conversation without informing the other person or people about the device.
Twelve states require the consent of both parties to a recorded conversation. However, nearly every state outlaws recording a conversation that you are not a party to, and 24 states restrict the use of hidden cameras.
The reporters organization adds that Virginia is a “one-party consent” state for both in-person and electronic communications. However, it could be argued that Sims was not a party to the conversations at school. What’s more, the school’s policy prohibits all electronic devices.
Kristin Paulding, Sims’s attorney, believes the charges won’t hold up in court. She criticized the school’s claim that this has to do with bringing electronic devices to school and told WAVY:
“They aren’t making this about that classroom. There are charges that carry jail time.”
If convicted, Sims faces up to five years in prison. She told WAVY that it was humiliating to find herself in handcuffs when she was only trying to protect her child:
“I was mortified. The next thing I know I’m a felon. Felony charges and a misdemeanor when I’m trying to look out for my kid. What do you do?”
To make matters worse, Sims says she still hasn’t heard anything from the school about her bullying complaints. She told WAVY:
“The thing that bothers me the most is that I am yet to get a response from anyone in the administration.”
The case is still in its early stages, and Sims’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 18. The school district has refused to comment on an ongoing investigation, but Paulding says other parents should know that they could face jail for trying to learn what’s going on at school.
As Sims told WAVY: “I tried to be fair, but it’s not fair. There is nothing fair about this.”
Watch the mom’s interview below, via WAVY.