A Mesa second-grader who fired a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol on a school bus full of about 50 children will not face any charges. Neither will his parents, who had kept the gun in a case with an inoperable lock.
Mesa police Sgt. Ed Wessing told the Tribune on Tuesday that after investigators spoke with the 8-year-old and his parents, the boy "clearly did not understand" the hazards and dangers that come along with a loaded gun.
"After speaking to the boy and his parents, it was determined that there was no type of criminal negligence on the part of the boy or the parents, and we believe that the parents' actions did not rise to any criminal activity," Wessing said.
However, in an incident that Mesa school officials believe to be a first involving one of the district's elementary school students, the second-grader at Franklin Northeast is facing expulsion for bringing the loaded gun to school last Friday.
No one was injured as the bullet lodged into the bottom of the seat that the boy was sitting on, according to police.
The handgun, which was a target pistol, did not have a magazine containing bullets in it, but when the magazine had been removed, one bullet remained in the chamber, and that was the one that was fired. The boy had taken the gun out of a case which had a lock on it from his parents' bedroom closet, but the lock was not functional, Wessing said.
The incident also has caused school officials to examine security measures after no one was aware throughout the course of the school day that the student had a loaded .22 caliber handgun in his backpack, according to Helen Hollands, a Mesa Unified School District spokeswoman.
The boy was handling the gun on the school bus about 2:45 p.m. on Friday when it fired and the bullet became embedded in the back of the seat.
"This definitely has caused us to think about our security measures," Hollands said.
The student was released to his parents on Friday. Talks are under way at the school, located at 7042 E. Adobe St., to determine how he will be disciplined.
"There are a number of processes that we'll go through during the due process talks before a recommendation is presented to the school's governing board," Hollands said. "The first step is the principal of the school sitting down and talking with the student and the parents of the students, but the first recommendation always is expulsion."
According to district policy, "a student who, after notice and a hearing, is determined to have possessed a firearm or transported a firearm to campus, shall be expelled by the governing board for a period of not less than one year."
However, the board may, on a case-by-case basis, provide for a lesser disciplinary action after consideration of all relevant circumstances - such as the student's age.
School districts throughout the state have zero-tolerance for students bringing weapons to school and those policies do not discriminate in terms of the age of the student.
"This truly was an anomaly," Hollands said. "This was a shock to all of us."
The fate of the student could be discussed during the district's governing board meeting on Jan. 24, Hollands said.
Currently, there are no metal detectors in elementary schools to screen what students are carrying on their person or in their backpacks.
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