LAURINBURG — Some parents at a Sycamore Lane Elementary School are expressing concern that they were not told that a student recently brought a BB gun on campus.
Chelsie Johnson, a mother who has two children at the elementary school, addressed the Scotland County Schools Board of Education on Monday. Johnson said she had questions about how the situation was handled.
“I want the school to be transparent about what’s going on,” Johnson said.
Per school board policy, board members did not respond to Johnson’s questions or make any statements concerning the incident.
Sycamore Lane parents became upset after learning that a third grader carried the weapon to a classroom the day before spring break.
A woman who gave her name as Mallory R. told The Exchange that she heard that the child threatened to “shoot up“ the school. She was concerned that officials failed to send a letter home to parents about the incident.
Mallory R, who has a granddaughter is in the third grade, said she spoke to Sycamore Lane Principal Fannie Mason, who confirmed that the child had been given a three-day suspension.
“I felt like they were saying that child had more rights than the other 600 kids there,” Mallory R. said. “After three days, he was back in class with the other kids. I would think that if they were going to send him back to school, they wouldn’t have him around the other kids that they would have him in a room with a guidance counselor to try and figure out what was wrong that he took matters into his own hands and brought the gun.”
The school worked with the Department of Social Services and the sheriff’s office to investigate the incident and determined that the child did not threaten other students, according to Meredith Bounds, public information officer for Scotland County Schools.
“We are fortunate that another student saw it and immediately reported it. Based on our district’s code of conduct, the student that brought the BB gun was suspended and has returned to school this week,” Bounds said. “We believe that the intent of the child was not to harm anyone, but rather to show the BB gun off.”
School officials did not confirm the length of suspension.
Bounds said the school did not take the issue lightly but believed that the child simply wanted to show off the gun and made a bad judgment call by bringing it to school.
“We believe that students must be disciplined for their mistakes, they also should be given the chance to learn from those mistakes as well,” Bounds said of the student’s return to school.
Mallory R. expressed concern about the possibility that BB guns could kill in certain cases.
“I don’t know what kind of BB gun it was, but some of them are powerful,” she said. “If it hits someone in the eye or the back of the neck just right it could kill them. My granddaughter has had surgery on her neck.”
According to Matt Coenig, owner of King’s Pawn, only certain BB guns are powerful enough to kill.
“Most BB guns are not going to be fast enough to kill. What would be required for that is a single shot BB gun that can go up to 1,100 feet per second or more, and if you put a pellet in it with a spear point then it could kill. They’re also pretty expensive; they cheapest one is $190,” Coenig said. “Those are meant for people who are having problems with pests or who want to rabbit or squirrel hunt, but don’t want the expense of buying a rifle or ammunition.”
Those BB guns and air soft guns, which shoot plastic pellets, are not readily available to people under 18, according to Coenig. However, parents do buy the guns and give them to minors.
Bounds was not able to comment on the type of gun brought by the student.
According to the consumer product safety commission, BB guns do kill, but the rate of deaths by BB guns is low.
“High-velocity BB guns, which have muzzle velocities higher than 350 feet per second, can increase this risk. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has reports of about four deaths per year caused by BB guns or pellet rifles.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169