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Felony charges dropped against Virginia mom who used recorder to thwart bullies

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Posted at 6:27 AM, Nov 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 13:57:10-05

A Virginia mother who sent her daughter to school with a voice recorder in an attempt to thwart bullying is no longer facing felony charges.

According to WAVY-TV, the Norfolk Commonwealth Attorney's Office is dropping charges against Sarah Sims of felony use of device to intercept oral communication. The charge could have carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Sims claims her 9-year-old daughter was being bullied at Ocean View Elementary School, and says she got no response when she reached out to school administrators. 

In September, she sent her daughter to school with a digital audio recorder in her backpack, hoping to capture audio from the classroom. School officials found out and confiscated the device, which had been in her daughter's desk recording the school day.

 

Earlier this month, Norfolk police charged Sims with a felony -- intercepting wire, electronic or oral communications -- and with a misdemeanor -- contributing to the delinquency of a minor

"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 the environment," Sims, 47, told CNN's Don Lemon on Monday.

"I was appalled when I heard these charges," Sims' attorney Kristin Paulding said. "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."

Paulding said the recording device "was a way to make sure that that classroom was a safe place" for the child. Because it was confiscated, Paulding said she doesn't know what -- if anything -- the recorder caught.

Virginia is a one-party consent state, meaning it is legal for someone to record others when the person recording is involved in the conversation or when one of the parties in the conversation has given prior consent.

It wasn't the first time her daughter had been bullied at the school, Sims said.

In third grade, her daughter "had been kicked in her stomach and hit with a jump rope on the playground," Sims said, adding that the school didn't notify her then.

"She became very anxious about attending," Sims said. "I removed her from the school because she was refusing to go. She felt like she wasn't protected."

Sims said her daughter tried to remain positive when she faced bullying again this school year.

"I did not want to just side with my child. I wanted to be fair," Sims said.

When her daughter complained, Sims tried to encourage her at first.

"I felt like I kind of let her down a little bit because I wasn't believing her," Sims said.