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Dad: NJ threatens to take away son after pencil-twirling incident

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VERNON, N.J. (PIX11) —  A 13-year-old boy was the most famous kid in school for a few weeks.

A simple pencil-twirling incident landed Ethan Chaplin in hot water with his school, which threatened to suspend him after a classmate claimed he was spinning the writing utensil like a gun.

After media attention from PIX11 and around the world, school officials backed off — but child protection agencies did not.

Letters to Ethan’s father, Michael, show the school found his son did nothing wrong at all, and that there would be no disciplinary action.  The superintendent was even confident the issue would be behind all of them.

Teen claims he was suspended from NJ school for twirling a pencil

Ethan’s father says his son was just twirling the pencil, not pointing it like a gun.

And that’s exactly what happened, until Ethan’s father received startling communication from New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency and Department of Children and Families.

“I received a letter from them saying they had found an incident of abuse or neglect regarding Ethan because I refused to take him for psychological evaluation,” Michael said.

In an effort to play along and clear his name, Michael agreed to take his son for an evaluation.

READ RELATED: Father claims son was removed from NJ school for twirling a pencil

Ethan was seen by a social worker, and had his blood drawn and urine taken.  In the end, no behavioral problem was found.

The state, it seems, is ignoring that set of testing, demanding further evaluation and threatening that if Michael doesn’t comply, they are will terminate his parental rights and free Ethan up for adoption.

“All I can do is keep fighting, keep telling the truth and (keep) presenting the evidence. That is all I can do and hopefully the state does the right thing,” Michael said.

He has even reached out to Governor Chris Christie’s office, who replied they would contact the Dept. of Children and Families to investigate.

“…I’m scared because they have a habit of running away with things unchecked and that’s exactly what’s going on,” Michael said.

PIX11 tried to get a comment from DCPP and NJ Department of Children and Families but received no answers.

The agency told PIX11 they can’t discuss the allegations or even acknowledge they have involvement with the family.

[trib_ndn  vid=26247411]


  • Peter Theis

    You got to be kidding. I see common sense don’t exist anymore !!! This garbage has gone way out-of-hand & I can’t deal with this garbage anymore !!!

    • Dentss Dunnagun

      Schools get away with this stuff because parents are forced to send their kids to school.

      Parents are highly disincentivized to make school choice because they have already paid taxes to fund government schools whether they chose to send their child to government schools or not.

      The whole thing is a hokey set up that should be relegated to the dust bin of the 20th century.

      Voluntary education, school choice, and consumer direct payment is the way to go.

      • Eemeli Antonen

        Voluntary education? Education is a human right, something that will make your life easier. What if parents opt-out of putting their kids to school and ruin their future? It is every child’s right to get education. Anyways, education is by far, one of the best investments one can ever make, it is the way out of poverty. I live in Finland and here private schools are outlawed so everyone has the same opportunities at the start (we also have socialized healthcare, tons of social security programs and pretty high taxes, scary right? ;) ) Finland used to be a country who relied only on wood exports and fishing, but thanks to the education system we now have one of the highest standards of living in the world, no homelessness, high wages, good healthcare and education that ranks among the best in the world.
        Giving parents the choice to ruin their children’s lives by not educating their children is not a choice they should have. Rights are good as long as they don’t interfere with others lives.

      • tim

        You’re actually saying parents should be able to deny their child essential knowledge and socialization?

  • April Quist

    When my son was in school he was tapping his eraser /pencil on the desk – the teacher put her hand over the pencil telling my son to stop in the meantime as she placed her hand mind you over point he lifted pencil up – and she said he stabbed her with the pencil – I brought the definition of stabbing and intent – she retracted her story – after the suspended my son – sometimes adults stretch the truth Shame!!

  • Rob Herrett

    This overreaction is far from rare. It’s a common reaction for children’s services agencies throughout the country. We’re fighting them to get back our grandkids here in Alaska and have filed a federal civil right charge against the persons involved. It’s a long hard road to fight them. They’re tenacious and want to keep their Title IV funding at all costs no matter if the case is valid or not!

  • Mars Depot

    The system as a whole is Bias & Flawed. It surely doesn’t serve the interest of the children and seeks to exclude and extort fathers.Michael Chaplin is a member of my Group DADS AGAINST THE SYSTEM & we will fully support him in his fight against CPS & all other agencies that use Bias 7 prejudice against Fathers! There is not a single finding to warrant Mr Chaplin being investigated let zone his custody being jeopardized or questioned. if he was a female this would not happen It would be a national outrage. So as much support as fathers can give it to Mr Chaplin to get one for the Dads! join us here

  • Daniel T. Reeves

    Okay, let me preface this comment by saying I personally know Mr. Chaplin, both of his sons, and their mother. Mike is the most loving and devoted parent I have known. We have been friends since 6th grade. He has done everything in his power to keep both his boys safe, happy and healthy. Why is the dept of child services spending this much energy in taking Ethan from a good environment but overlooking the situations on the other side of the fence. There is documented neglect from the school Colin attends, yet they never threaten the mother. The system is broken. The politicians in this State need to stop looking after themselves an start looking after the public that supports them. And the department if child services needs to focus on the truths of each situation directly related to each case, not blanket stereotypes which are doing more harm then good.

  • Bobbielyn Harrsch

    the Agency’s mentioned are great at putting parents through hell and back, but yet do not follow court orders them selves! I know for a fact that 9 years ago, when a child involved with them, they were ordered to provide the parent of medical records from when the child was in their care, and the parent is still waiting! Yet when the same parent refused to tell them where another child was, the parent spent 2 weeks in county jail, because the child in question was on a trip with a grand parent! ( they wanted to know exactly right now where the child was, and made accusations that the parent had killed the child and buried the body in multiple places) Now while one child was in their care That child was abused, by the facility, not getting the child medical attention for sun poisoning, after they took the kid to the beach for 8+ hours, with no sun screen and no shelter from the sun!

  • Darlene Reinig

    This is absolutely ludicrous. Twirling a pencil! I’m all about caution, but this is on the side of absurd. For the agency to threaten removing the child and placing him for adoption, they have too much power. Focus on the actual abused children who need help. Your tax dollars going to waste.

  • cinfy

    The state is getting out of hand. Christies office needs to step in. They twist things to their advantage. I know they are doing it to a friend. They have to much power. They need to be evaluated on their methods. The organization makes good parents go through hell. As parents affected by them who are it going through hell should get together and do something

    • Anne H.

      The Governor’s office will likely say that they cannot step in. And the agency is funded with not only state and local dollars, but federal dollars as well. And if they have justification, they can say that the child is a special needs child and get more federal dollars. CAPTA is a wonderful thing *snort*! As for investigating themselves? Not so much. Michael, I sincerely wish you and your son all the best.

  • Michael Chaplin

    Hello Everyone – This is a surreal situation for me as a father – The crux of the story is a vindictive DCPP / DYFS worker after not getting his way filed a case against me. THE ONLY shred of “evidence” he had was me not bowing to his demand that I rush my son to the crisis unit to be evaluated for the pencil. In the end the school backed down, the evaluations turned up nothing BUT DCPP / DYFS ignored all of the documentation I had sent to them nullifying their case and now they will investigate themselves to see if they are guilty – I wonder what Governor Christy has to say about this?

    Everyone needs to understand DCPP can step in at any time and rip a family apart with no evidence and outside due process.

    • Shawn

      Michael, Sorry to hear about this. I had my run-in with DFS several years ago, and to keep them from taking my son away from a loving family it took moving him out of the country. Luckly he was a citizen of two countries. When we got the other country the State/County tried to have him returned. When our new place looked into the matter they were appalled at the over-zelious prosecution that was happening. I return back to the States about once a year to visit my family, but my son has been too scared to go back worried that they will grab him and take him away. Mine all started because he would get random nose bleeds, even while at school. They tried to state this was from being physically abused.

    • common sense

      I notice in states with the most severe gun control they like to violate your rights a lot more than other states (new york, new jersey). I have to say if CPS tried to take my kids ( if I had any). They would be leaving in a bag. It is child abduction pure and simple. Whether it is an agent of the government or not. I would protect my children from these bastards. They will spend thousands trying to take kids from good homes to put them in a foster home where they will be abused or molested. Fuck that.

  • Kim Cross

    I live in Greenwood Lake, NY and am a Grandmother raising two grandsons. The younger of the two started kindergarten this year and because he was chewing on pencils he was put on a discipline chart. After several communications with the teacher via the chart that he was bored and not being engaged, they stopped all communication for over a month because the last communication from the teacher was this is a school issue and it will be handled in the classroom. So, I figured it was handled. Then in Jan 2014, I was asked to come in for a parent / teacher conference at which I was railroaded by the school therapist, principal and teacher. They threw a zip locked baggie on the table with a pencil, crayon and a dice on the table and told me he is still putting objects in his mouth. I was shocked! The principal recommended I take him for mental therapy because now they said they did not feel this was a school issue. In March, I attended regular district parent / teacher conference and his teacher gushed – oh whatever your doing keep it up, he has blossomed in the classroom – wants to share his journal, etc, etc. A week later the teacher called me – Oh I forgot to ask you how his therapy is coming along. To which I replied, since the school did not feel this was a school issue, we decided to handle it as a private family matter. Teacher: so what does that mean? ME; exactly what I just said, we will handle it as a private matter. Teacher: but what am I going to tell the principal? ME: That we are handling it as a private family matter. The next day the principal called me – I have reconsidered and this is a school issue, so I need you to come into the school immediately to discuss this. I told her I cannot keep taking off work to discuss the same issue just because she has reconsidered, but would be willing to set-up a conference call for that Monday. The next day (Friday) I received a call from Child Protection Services saying they have a complaint from the school stating that I am refusing to seek mental therapy for my child. I was forced to let them evaluate him or I would be charged with child abuse. Their testing showed exactly what I maintained from the beginning – he was bored. He scored two levels above his peers. But it does not end there! As part of this process I mandated they implement a daily log so I could see exactly what and when he was putting into his mouth. The log did not come home for 4 days, so I questioned it. The principal accused the same child (that she thinks needs mental therapy) of coming up with this diabolic scheme to hide the book at the end of the day and then retrieve it in the morning before class in order to hand it back to the teacher? Well which one is he – mental or super genius??? I found out the teacher was out those four days, so the aide probably just did not know – but instead of telling the truth she lied again! So, then she wanted to give the book to his daycare provider who picks him up in the afternoon, she was advised via e-mail NOT to give anyone the book as this violates confidentiality rights. She gave the book to her anyway in an unsecured manner. I am now fighting the BOE with no results. This has been a continuous violation of my family’s rights with no results! It’s not just men Gentlemen it happens to women too!

    • Abolish CPS

      Both the schools and CPS are out of control. My son has autism and was in a regular school with a one-one aid. He has behavioral issues and other challenging behaviors. I thought they had their act together and I trusted they were doing things right. However, they became frustrated and instead of abiding by the behavior plan as they are mandated to do, they decided that his issues such as periodic incontinence, self deprecating talk like “I’m a bad boy”, moodiness, and even the medication prescribed by a board certified pediatrician, were all signs of abuse or neglect going on at home….so they called CPS 7 times in one year. I had no idea for most of the year they were doing that and thought we were in caring, supportive hands. Over the school year I began to notice a recurring nuance of hostility. For example once when I took my son to school early he broke free from me and ran into the school playground. While searching for him I ran into his aide and she said she would take him from there. I got a call from his school caseworker saying we need to have a scheduled meeting to discuss the problem of dropping him off unattended. I clarified what had happened and that at no time was he deliberately unattended. She still insisted on having a meeting – in fact turned it into an IEP meeting, though inappropriate and discussed it as part of the IEP meeting. Also did the same thing for son’s incontinence. – accused me of deliberately sending him to school with soiled clothing though they only noticed the soiling late in the day on the few occasions when it happened. I too had set up a communication log. The started using that to document information against me. For instance they would write “Music teacher noticed smell coming from his pants during last period -during pickup warned mother not to bring him to school with soiled clothes.” Eventually they started insisting that my estranged husband who I was in the midst of a very high-conflict divorce at the time, come to meetings and they were feeding him ammunition against me that he was using in court – same stuff – child’s incontinence. They were pitting ex husband further against me and adding to the misery of our court battle. Eventually he started making false allegations against me to CPS while at the same time telling the school he would be gaining full custody of kids-which further egged on their underhanded hostility. I can’t accurately convey how horrible that year was for me and the kids. I gained full legal and physical custody of kids temporarily because ex didn’t show up to the hearing that he had requested to claim I was unfit. CPS came to the school and interviewed both of my kids without my consent or knowledge. When I figured out how the school was damaging both my son’s educational program and getting into our family business I hired a special needs advocate to attend son’s IEPs. She was appalled at what was going on and insisted I place my son in a private school that could properly address his needs and then sue the school them to cover the cost of his new placement. I was hesitant to do so but I did and they settled quickly after it became very apparent that I had a very strong case. Later, I obtained my CPS file and realized they had made 7 frivolous reports to CPS about me over that school year. On one occasion the school caseworker had called me to ask about son’s meds and she asked all about his treatment and his provider and the reasons for his meds – as if she were a very caring and interested in his success. Then she turned right around and called CPS claiming I was doing a strange medical regimen with my son and that my daughter had also had been diagnosed earlier with autism but that I had her diagnosis removed…she appeared to be building a case for medical negligence or Munchhausens! Thankfully I sued these clowns and got my kids out of their school. Now they are both in private school and though its not perfect I don’t fear that they are going behind my back and meddling over some creepy fantasies of abuse. In fact they are always complimenting me on my parenting ability and what a great job I’ve done raising such polite and friendly children. Oh and luckily after the court heard my evidence they awarded me full legal and primary custody until ex can prove he is a more involved and a responsible dad- which I hope that he does. Hopefully the worst is over but I still worry that CPS can show up and ruin our lives and potentially nab my kids since anyone can make an anonymous claim at any time and these mandated reporters are just looking for any nonsense to report.

  • Michael Chaplin

    Kim thank you for posting your story – we have to expose CPS abuse for what it is – an epidemic in America – I urge anyone else reading this to POST YOUR STORY HERE. The word has to spread and those in power need to know what is going on.

    • lajih

      My mother divorced my abusive stepfather ten years ago. They were granted joint custody of my two younger siblings. Every two years for the past ten he calls DYFS saying that my siblings are abused/neglected and that he should be given full custody. For ten years, DYFS has taken away the kids for a week, found the allegations to be unfounded, and given them back. My mother now has several anxiety issues because of this. Last time, they took the kids away and accused my husband of molesting them. They told him that they couldn’t prove it, but that they were going to file that way anyway. He’s not in trouble with the police because there was no criminal behavior. We moved out into our own apartment on a month’s notice so that they would give the children back to their mother, who’s now facing a trial because of every false allegation her ex-husband has filed with DYFS to torment her. She has no money, no lawyer, and no will to fight anymore. I hate this organization more than I can every possibly describe. DYFS of NJ is the most corrupt group of people I have ever met, and they destroyed my entire family.

  • tracy

    I went through the exact same thing in pa!! abuse of power is all it is!!! when its in fact the school who bullies children they dont like they turn it over to child protective services who arent drug tested&come to think of it neither is the goverment but yet feel they have the right to take away peoples children while their decisions are made under the influence!!

  • njmom101

    The schools are going over board with the zero tolerance rules they have. They take any minor misbehavior and turn it into something huge in no time. My son who’s 10 has had outside suspension and in school suspencion for rough housing with his friends. He now tells me he is afraid to go to school because the teachers are constantly on him about everthing he does. Just yesterday he told me that he trust no one in school and feels no one listen to him, and started telling me he no longer wants to go to school. His teacher doesn’t believe when he has complains about other children, she has called him a liar to my face. The school doesn’t offer any plan of action for first time incidents, it just hands out suspensions, and there is nothing parents can do because these are BOE rules.

  • Warren

    Welcome to a totalitarian regime, where your rights as a parent are superseded by the bureaucracy. Obama’s Amerika!

  • Warren

    You made the front page of Reddit. Get ready for drudge and the national news cycle. Problem will be solved in days.

  • Kelly

    If you want to understand why this is happening look up Title IV of the Social security act , parts B and E. The state of NJ gets federal subsidies, (money), for perpetrating this nonsense on parents!

  • L. Rebel

    There are stories like this all over the country. There’s a mom in the Northwest who had 4 children taken. Three of the children have medical issues involving autism. Her husband left her recently (too much stress?) and she had been homeschooling all of her young children. When her husband left them she reconsidered putting them back in school because it was too much to handle without a spouse helping. She asked the school whether there were any programs available to help…………several days later CPS shows up at her door. They took all the children and the reason being there were crayons on the floor which were possibly detrimental to children with disabilities and there were dishes in the sink. No lie!!!!!

  • Karyn

    Good ol’ DYFS does it again! These people need to be shut down! They harass innocent families and they don’t properly investigate the ones in need of their services! If you don’t comply with them, they threaten to put your children up for adoption! They are legal kidnappers & the judges allow them to do these things! Their all in cahoots with each other! One of the most corrupt age cues out there! Especially I all in NEW JERSEY! The workers aren’t properly & thoroughly checked out yet they allow them to come into our homes and be around our children! They need to be shut down!! This is absolutely ridiculous!

  • Dani Heinrich

    To hell with CPS and this school, even IF the kid was simulating a gun using a pencil…it’s a fucking pencil! I can recall during my own time in Elementary here in Minnesota in the early 90’s when I was perhaps 9 or 10 years old i had purchased a “cap gun” that resembled a snub revolver to the best of my recollection and I had gone as far as to color the orange tip with a black marker and playing something along the lines of “cops and robbers” at recess, I was suspended for a week if I remember correctly and child protective services were never involved nor a psychological evaluation and I was a little brat who had gone out of my way to make a toy look authentic. The shit that is happening to this country as a result of tragedies is atrocious, next we will have kindergarten students arrested for “finger bang guns” punishing kids for their imagination. Get someone with common sense in control of these institutions PLEASE.

    • Adam

      If by “next”, you mean “it’s already happened, and there’s a link to the story in the “similar stories” bar at the bottom of this very page, then yes. Something really does need to be done about this insanity… sadly, it’s hard to know what. Beaurocracy is very good against protecting itself from fixing its brokenness.

  • Slouching Toward Gomorrah

    Welcome to Hillary Clinton’s world where “It takes a village to raise a child.”

  • Kai Alexis Price

    Time to shut down New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency and Department of Children and Families. Close them down. They obviously don’t have any real issues to attend to.

    • Ralph Carlson Jr (@CoralSkys)

      the problem with groups like CPS is they need to find issues to justify their existence so when no real issues exist they will go seek out innocent people like this and try to make them look bad and take their children away from them by force. This is nothing short of kidnapping if the child is taken away

  • Simon

    I choose to believe that things like this don’t actually happen, and that it’s just the state of modern “journalism” that blows everything way out of proportion. I’d rather believe that, because it’s far easier to swallow than the rampant stupidity required for this to have been an actual event. I sleep better that way.

  • Frank

    Look for a corrupt New Jersey judge in cahoots with someone in CPS and a corrupt private juvenile detention facilities operator. They just want the kid to add another body to the roles to harvest some more profits from taxpayers.

  • Mr Anderson

    Maybe the NJ DCP needs investigated for illegal child adoption rings. Their behavior is very troubling and needs looked into.

  • BTL

    I am so sorry you and your family are going through this and will be praying for you all. Another reason I will continue to keep my son in a Christian school. Fortunately, I have total peace of mind when he is there. If any parent can afford it, please consider this as an option. They also are receiving a great education and not learning bad things. Again, peace of mind will be your outcome!

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