SWANSEA (MCT) — Montrail White said he forced his 8-year-old, third-grade daughter to stand outside High Mount School Tuesday wearing a sign that said, "I like to steal from others and lie about it!!" to make her stop stealing.
But Mike Brink, superintendent of High Mount School District 116, said White set a bad example himself by using an expletive about 15 times in front of young students and using an expletive in telling his daughter to be quiet.
The incident, which was witnessed by parents dropping their children off for school about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, has prompted the district to send a letter to parents.
"It is not safe to have a young child standing by a very busy school entrance ... In addition, I will absolutely not tolerate the verbal abuse and profanities that were used this morning in the presence of parents, students and school personnel," Brink wrote in the letter.
Brink said the child was screaming and crying.
However, White and his wife, Melissa, said school officials and police overreacted and improperly interrupted a father trying to discipline his daughter.
The child was made to wear a homemade "sandwich" type of sign with the message on the front and back of her because she regularly stole items at home and once stole "Halloween rings" from a teacher's desk.
"Is it more embarrassing to her to let a few people see her now or have her name in the newspaper when she gets older and is caught stealing and sent to jail?" Montrail White said.
He said he had his daughter standing where other children and parents could see the sign, but said at no time was she in any danger. White, of Swansea, said he stayed in the family vehicle while watching her.
After Brink and the school principal came outside to question White, he became verbally abusive, Brink said. White denied using any profanity.
A Swansea police officer showed up and was soon followed by four other officers in separate cars at the school at 1721 Boul Ave.
White said he was threatened with arrest and was told by Brink to take the sign off his daughter and let her go to class.
At one point, White said an officer pointed to the sign on the little girl and said, "You call that being a good father?"
"Here I am trying to teach my daughter right from wrong and there isn't anything I can really do because a police officer yelled at her daddy and threatened to lock him up."
White eventually removed the sign and his daughter entered the school. There were no arrests.
Swansea Police Chief Mike Arnold said that if White returns with his daughter wearing the sign but stays on public property and does not create a disturbance, he will not be arrested.
"He has a right to protest in public," Arnold said.
"If she steals again she'll be right back there tomorrow wearing that sign," said White, who added that he will stay on private property.