by Valerie Verkamp
After the final bell rang Wednesday afternoon dismissing students for the day, Park Hill High School administrators received a verbal report indicating a student was armed with a gun.
As 1,685 students made their way to either the school bus or their own vehicle, one student who was allegedly armed with a deadly weapon was taken to a secluded office. When questioned by school administrators, the minor revealed he indeed had a gun and removed it from his coat pocket.
The Platte County Sheriff's Department responded to the scene and took the student into custody.
During a press conference held in the main entryway a couple hours after school had dismissed, Captain Erik Holland, public information officer with the Platte County Sheriff's Office, described the weapon as a .22 caliber handgun. He also indicated that the student was carrying a loaded clip.
An ancillary search of the school detected no additional weaponry.
While in custody, the student told authorities he had no intention of using the weapon at school, but indicated he was facing some “issues” outside of school.
School authorities are not releasing the student's name or grade level. As of Wednesday evening, he remains in custody, where he is cooperating with investigators. The student has not been formally charged, but authorities say he could be charged as an adult.
Officials say early indications based upon conversations they have had with the juvenile indicate there was no threat to the safety or welfare of fellow students.
“I want to make sure that parents and students realize that school is a safe environment. Parents should not hesitate to send their kids back to school in the morning,” said Cpt. Holland.
School administrators praised the student who brought the report to their attention.
“The student was courageous in making that sort of report and we appreciate that,” said Principal Dr. Brad Kincheloe.
“We certainly recognize that that sort of action takes some courage from a child and we appreciate that he exercised that courage. One of the great things about that is that the students at school know each of them is responsible for the safety of all of them. So if they all take an active role ensuring our school is safe and remains safe, it will be a safe place to come to school.”
In the aftermath, Dr Kincheloe said school officials will continue to review procedures and if they discover any weaknesses when it comes to how they should handle such situations, changes would be made.
This incident, said Dr.Kincheloe, “speaks to the fact that the procedures we have in place are working and working well.”
Missouri law restricts the duration a school principal can suspend a student.
Dr. Kincheloe indicated the student would be suspended for the next 10 days for his wrongdoing, which is the maximum amount of time. The student may also face expulsion should the Park Hill School Board feel it's appropriate. Superintendent Dr. Scott Springston also has the authority to extend the punishment past the 10 day period.
“I think that everyone is concerned with student safety at Park Hill, across the state, and across the nation,” said Dr. Kincheloe. “I think it's important that we all remain vigilant and we all make sure our children are safe.”