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The Manchester Times has learned that juvenile petitions have been filed against two students at Coffee County Middle School – one seventh grader and one eighth grader – after officials claim they possessed two firearms while on school property on Friday, Feb. 15.
According to information obtained by the Times, one juvenile allegedly brought his step-father’s guns to the school on Feb. 15 and allegedly kept them on his person throughout the day in a large coat. One of the guns, believed to be a .25-caliber handgun, was loaded according to Dr. LaDonna McFall, Director of Coffee County Schools. The other gun was allegedly a .22-claiber pistol. McFall added that it was her understanding that the guns were not meant to cause harm but to “pass along to someone else.”
“We have confirmed that a CCMS student brought a gun to school,” McFall said on the phone Thursday evening. “Our understanding through the investigation is that they were not brought as a means to harm anyone.
“We have investigated it and proper charges have been filed and we are handling the situation with the students. We are very thankful that no one was hurt and it just reminds us all that this doesn’t just happen in other places or big cities, it happens everywhere. This is a societal issue and we need to talk about it with our kids.”
McFall added that parents of the school’s students were notified about the incident in a letter sent home Thursday.
According to a report at the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department, deputies were notified on Saturday, Feb. 23, by the juvenile’s step-father after a search of his home discovered that he was missing guns. Further investigation revealed that the juvenile allegedly took the guns to school on Feb. 15 and rode the bus to a friend’s house – the other juvenile, an eighth grader, who has had a juvenile petition signed on him - with the guns. The second juvenile allegedly took possession of one of the guns while on the bus ride home, which is considered school property.
McFall said that possessing or bringing a handgun on school property falls under the school system’s zero-tolerance policy and is grounds for an automatic 365-day expulsion.
“As of now, they are both out of school until they come and the parents can meet with me and ask what we can provide,” McFall explained. “Various things can happen. I can choose for them to serve the full 365-day expulsion, I can choose to send them to alternative school, choose to provide services through a home-school type of setting. Those are some of my options and they are looked at in a case-by-case basis.”
McFall added that the investigation is ongoing and video tape of the bus ride is still under review. She wasn’t certain if the guns were taken out in view during the bus ride but did say it was her understanding that one was loaded.
“Obviously I’m getting that from law enforcement,” she said, adding that cooperation with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department and school officials has been “fantastic.”
“We are in constant communication with law enforcement and our middle school administration, [principal] Kim Aaron and her team handled this very quickly and professionally. They met with teachers and explained what happened.”
Both juveniles have been charged with possession of a weapon on school property and are scheduled to appear in Coffee County Juvenile Court on Wednesday, March 20…
Read more in next week’s (March 6) print edition of the Manchester Times. Click here to subscribe to the print and / or online edition.