Dad says resolved pencil twirling incident has led to state trying to take his son

VERNON, N.J. (WPIX) — 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.

But after media attention from PIX11 and around the world, school officials backed off.

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

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 did take his son to be evaluated.

Ethan was seen by a social worker, had his blood drawn and urine taken.

In the end, no behavioral problem was ever found.

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

“All I can do is keep fighting. keep telling the truth and 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. They’re operating unchecking,” Michael said.

PIX11 tried to get a comment from DCPP and NJ Department of Children and Families but hit a road block there.

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

For the most current updates about this story, please visit our sister station PIX 11. 

11 comments

  • Jason Summa

    The only way I can imagine this happening to start is if the kid stopped the pencil in his hand and holding one end between his thumb and forefinger. If the pencil is long enough, one could possibly take the shape as a “gun” but even then it would be pushing it. In this day and age of school violence, certain things have been taken way out of reason and context.

  • Squeaky Wheeler

    I am going to assume, just for argument’s sake, that this kid intentionally pretended that his pencil was a gun and that he used his pencil-gun to target specific classmates and school officials. Working under that assumption, I am still unable to see why the state would get involved or endeavor to terminate parental rights.

  • DAD

    NJ Dcpp was involved for allegations of abuse involving the mother and sibling – they could not act until there was an incident with Ethan. Well this was their incident. They latched onto this at the insistence of the other parent and all hell broke loose.

  • Tee

    As a Social Worker who has worked in CPS. I believe that there is more to the story. The father is omitting vital information here. I believe this family must have history with the department or even an open investigation . We have to understand that CPS practice is governed by laws and regulations set for by the state and the federal government. The department must have good cause to pursue this case.

    • Josh

      Not necessarily. I was investigated by CPS because someone said they saw me punch my son in the stomach. All hell broke loose. Our lives were turned upside down, we were alienated, and the rest of my kids (I have four of them) were terrified. There was no substantiation nor “good cause” as you put it to put my family through that. I received a letter, without apology, that simply said: “We have closed your case as unsubstantiated, thank you for your cooperation”.
      I think that should have also resulted in whoever made the claim receiving a citation for filing a false report. Don’t want to give your name when you make your report? Then we don’t do an investigation. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

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