Some parents are upset after they learned that a first-grader brought a loaded gun to an Augusta, Georgia, elementary school Tuesday and it went undetected for about three hours before being discovered by a lunch lady.
It was right around noon at Bayvale Elementary when the cafeteria worker noticed a bulge in the boy’s waistband, and upon further observation saw what appeared to be the handle of a gun. It turned out that it was, in fact, a .22-caliber pistol and it was loaded.
“He believed it to be a toy pistol, he was just proud to have it, very innocent. He was very oblivious to the seriousness of the offense,” School Safety Chief Alfonzo Williams told local media.
“There’s no reason to believe he was being bullied or that he was going to use it for any ill intent,” Williams added.
Williams confirmed that the gun belonged to the boy’s parents, but because the firearm wasn’t displayed or brandished by the boy and he did not appear to present a threat, no charges were filed against either him or his parents. Williams also told a local ABC affiliate that although the school has a zero tolerance policy, each incident is different and therefore treated according to the circumstances.
In this case, the weapon was safely taken from the child without further incident, the child’s parents were contacted, and the school day otherwise continued without disruption. Letters were sent home informing parents of the incident and the boy has been suspended from school for the remainder of the week.
But some parents weren’t too happy with the way things were handled.
“It’s very scary knowing that my kids are going to a school and might not be safe,” said Loria Culver, who has a first and fourth-grader at the elementary school.
Culver also added that she was upset the letter only mentioned a “weapon” and it wasn’t until later that she discovered the weapon was a loaded gun.
“My child is in the first grade and had lunch with this child,” Culver added. “I could have been burying, or other parents could have been burying our children.”
Likewise, Culver believes that a phone call to parents would have been more appropriate.
“A lot of kids, they don’t give us letters. Especially because these are elementary kids,” Culver pointed out.
However, the Richmond County Board of Education said that since there was no immediate threat, the standard protocol was to send a letter home, and that a phone call would have upset parents further and added an unnecessary disruption to the school day.
Williams added that the incident is a prime example of the importance of safety, especially where it concerns a firearm.
“Keep them in a safe location, to make sure they are safe” Williams urged. “Talk to their children, know what’s in their backpacks.”