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Mom puts recorder in child’s backpack to catch bullying, now faces felony charge

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The mother of a Norfolk student turned to television station WAVY after she was charged by police.

“I tried to be fair, but it’s not fair,” Sarah Sims said. “There is nothing fair about this.”

In late September, Sims said she had enough. She said her 9-year-old daughter was getting bullied at Ocean View Elementary.  She said repeated calls and emails to the school went unreturned.

“The thing that bothers me the most is that I am yet to get a response from anyone in the administration,” Sims added.

Sims says she took actions into her own hands.  She wanted to prove that nothing was being done to help her fourth-grade daughter. She put a digital recorder into her daughter’s backpack in hopes of catching audio from inside the classroom.

“If I’m not getting an answer from you, what am I left to do?” she asked.

The recorder was found. The 9-year-old was moved to a new classroom and, about a month later, police charged Sims.

“I was mortified,” Sims said. “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?”

WAVY contacted Norfolk Schools and was told because it is a pending investigation no one could comment on what happened.  WAVY was told that no electronic devices are allowed in elementary schools.

“They aren’t making this about that classroom,” Sims’ attorney Kristin Paulding said. “There are charges that carry jail time.”

Sims was charged with felony use of device to intercept oral communication and misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The felony charge could carry five years in prison.

“Instead of comforting her she’s going to a magistrate and being handcuffed,” Paulding added.

Paulding calls the two charges a stretch. She said she believes neither should hold up in court.

“We are at the very early stages of this, but, even at the early stages, I think the community needs to know that this is happenin because any parent out there that is sending their child to school now could be at risk for something that happened to Sarah,” Paulding said.

Sims is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Jan. 18.Join the discussion on Facebook: