Law & Order: Grade School

Well, this is certainly out of the ordinary:

The incident started when a Delaware State Police trooper, who was on assignment as a school resource officer in the Cape Henlopen School District, questioned the third-grader and a fifth-grader while investigating the theft of $1.

According to court papers, the questioning was so intense, complete with threats of the children being sent to a juvenile facility for lying, that the 8-year-old — who was not a suspect — burst into tears. His parents pulled him out of school because of the January 2008 incident and filed a lawsuit in January 2010 charging the officer violated the child’s rights.


While walking the boy from the office to a room where AB was being questioned, the trooper told the boy he knew he didn’t commit the theft, according to court documents.

“You’re not in any trouble. I just need you to be brave and come in here,” Pritchett told the student, according to court papers. “When I tell you the story of what’s happened and I look at you, you just say ‘no you didn’t do it.’ ”

But once inside the room, the child said Pritchett “used a mean voice and told him 11 or 12 times that Pritchett had the authority to arrest and place him in jail if he didn’t tell the truth.”

The trooper also told the students that bad children were “sent to the Stevenson House,” where “people are mean and children are treated like criminals” and that their siblings would be upset and would not be able to see them.

The Stevenson House is a state-operated juvenile detention center in Milford.

The 8-year-old then started to cry, prompting Pritchett to turn to AB and say, “This is crazy now. Look at him,” according to court papers. The incident prompted AB — the fifth-grader — to confess.

What would have come next if that didn’t work? Waterboarding? Not surprisingly, there was a lawsuit filed by the parents of the third-grader. Initially that suit was dismissed at the trial Court level but has since been revived by he Delaware Supreme Court.

FILED UNDER: Education, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    The kid is lucky the local police hadn’t just bought some new SWAT gear that they wanted to try out.

  2. Ben says:

    Why the #%#% do we have state troopers in a freaking elementary school?

  3. rudderpedals says:

    This is known as Chekov’s cop. If there’s a school resource officercop in school in the first period he’s going to be used before the last act.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Cops have way too much power.

  5. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    May I offer an alternative scenario? Could Pritchett be a relative newbie who was placed as a school resource officer because of his youth and lack of experience? Is it possible that he watched too many episodes of “The Shield?”

    “Barney, keep the bullet in your pocket!”

  6. mantis says:


    This is known as Chekov’s cop. If there’s a school resource officercop in school in the first period he’s going to be used before the last act.

    Now that’s funny. True, too.