Student found with handgun at Mesa's Smith Junior High - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Student found with handgun at Mesa's Smith Junior High

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Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 5:30 pm | Updated: 4:52 pm, Thu Jan 19, 2012.

For the second time in less than two weeks, a student has brought a gun to a Mesa Unified School District campus.

According to a news release from Mesa Police, at about 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, the school resource officer at Smith Junior High School responded to an administrator's office for a report that a 12-year-old boy had been found with a handgun.

School security had located the student and removed the firearm without incident, the release said.

The boy, a seventh-grader, was found with a small caliber handgun and a folding pocket knife. According to police, the boy said an "unknown" person had put a note in his backpack last week threatening to kill him. He told police he threw the note away.

The boy also told officers he does not have any known enemies at the school and did not claim to have any issues with fighting or bullying, the release said. He told police that he had stolen the firearm from his grandfather's residence.

According to police, the boy had made statements about wanting to kill himself on Wednesday. He was released to his parents to be transported to behavioral health treatment.

The firearm was seized as evidence, and police said the boy will be referred to the Maricopa County Juvenile Court for carrying a weapon on a school ground.

Mesa district spokeswoman Helen Hollands said the boy's weapons were first seen by another, uninvolved student who immediately reported it to a teacher. District security was able to take the weapon and the SRO (school resource officer) took over the investigation.

District policy states that when a student brings a weapon to campus, there is an immediate short-term suspension. District discipline guidelines, Hollands said, "state that any student who, after due process, has been determined to have a weapon shall be expelled by the governing board for no less than one year, however ... based on extenuating circumstances the board can decide on a lesser discipline."

This is the second time this month that a Mesa student brought a weapon to a district school.

On Jan. 6, a second-grader brought a loaded semi-automatic pistol to Franklin Northeast Elementary School. On his way home, the gun went off while he was manipulating it on the school bus, shooting a bullet into the seat where he was sitting. Neither he nor any other students were injured.

The 8-year-old had told police that he took the gun to school because "he was afraid" and didn't want anyone to "steal him."

He was suspended and could face further disciplinary action.

When asked if the district may need to look at security policies, Hollands said, "In both situations, it was the student who violated a policy. It wasn't a lack of policy."

The school sent home a letter in the backpacks of all Smith students. A voicemail message was also sent out to all families informing them of the incident and letting them know about the letter, Hollands said.

One key point in the letter, Hollands said, was a request that parents remind students about district policy regarding weapons.

"First, it gave a brief synopsis of the incident. The next statement was, ‘Please review with your student that any and all weapons are not allowed on campus and they should immediately report any incident,'" Hollands said. "Re-education is a step we took at this place. I don't know if the governing board will review the policy at this point.

"When safety of all the staff and students is such a top priority, any time there is an incident that breaches that sense of security, we need to be cognizant of ways to re-establish a sense of security on the campus for the students."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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