Rogers Park Elementary student brings loaded pistol to school Thursday
An Anchorage elementary student showed up to school with a loaded handgun in a backpack on Thursday, the anniversary of the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Neither the Anchorage Police Department nor the Anchorage School District immediately notified the media of the incident.
"In regards to whether or not the gun was loaded, it had a full magazine, however, no round in the chamber." Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Kendra Doshier wrote in an email Friday morning.
Doshier said an APD School Resource Officer responded to Rogers Park Elementary around 9 a.m. Thursday after a school official discovered the weapon in the student's backpack.
There were no injuries and Doshier said the gun has been seized as evidence.
"It’s scary," said Kaya Kade, mother of a fourth grade student at Rogers Park Elementary. "I can’t believe I am talking about my elementary-aged school kid at school with a loaded gun."
Another parent who asked not to be identified by name provided KTVA with an email notification sent out to parents on Thursday at 4:01 p.m., seven hours after the incident occurred.
The initial email said a weapon had been found in a student's backpack, and that "at no time were students or staff in danger."
Friday, ASD released the following statement to the media, after this report was first published:
"Student safety and transparent communication is the District's priority. Hence, this communication to you now.
Thursday, Feb. 14, ASD notified Rogers Park Elementary families that a weapon was found in the backpack of an elementary student. When the weapon was found, Anchorage Police Department was contacted immediately, the SRO responded quickly, and APD began its investigation. ASD works in conjunction with APD and does not release information until authorized to do so. We do not get in front of APD nor its investigations.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. this morning, APD released details to local media. According to APD, the weapon found was a loaded handgun with a full magazine and no round in the chamber. As we work with minors, we cannot disclose personally identifiable information, but the District has taken appropriate disciplinary action.
We are committed to sharing information with families, as we are able to share it and continue to work with this situation to ensure the safety of our students and staff."
Anne Johnson, mother to kindergarten and third grade students, said she pulled her children out of school on Friday. In an email to the principal, which she shared with KTVA, Johnson wrote:
"While I fully respect the need for privacy regarding the minor involved and for APD to conduct their investigation, I as a parent of students at Rogers Park should not be getting details from the news media before I get information from the school.
Additionally, the school seems to be very much downplaying the incident. A gun and a loaded magazine was brought on school grounds by a student. That is a very big deal to me as a parent. I want to know exactly what policies and procedures are in place and will be in place to prevent future incidents and assure me my kids are safe. I want my kids to know about this and to be aware and reminded that it is a big deal, and to say something if they see something."
In an interview Friday afternoon, ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said the district was cooperating with APD, and released what information it could on Thursday.
"Teachers are teaching, and it was important for all staff to know as well and so when is it that you can speak to your staff as well? It’s when they’re done teaching," said Dr. Bishop. "And so they have students all day long and immediately after school, outside of the initial incident, staff are notified. And immediately the same time staff are in a meeting, a message went out."
She said ASD would have released additional information earlier on Friday, but wasn't given approval to do so by APD — a miscommunication Dr. Bishop said has since been cleared up.
Following a rash of school threats in November, ASD faced backlash over delays in sharing information with the public.
During a meeting in which frustrated parents complained about the district's handling of the threats, a school official said from then on, notifications about threats would be released quickly to parents and staff.
Friday, Dr. Bishop said she felt the district's response to the incident reflected that commitment.
"It wasn’t a crisis, how it happened," she explained, "And probably an indicator is the child’s age would let us all know there wasn’t an intent for any kind of harm."
ASD is barred from releasing identifying information such as the student's grade, but Dr. Bishop said she's never heard of a similar incident happening with a student this young.
"I'm not even sure the child was even cognizant of what occurred," she said.
Part of Kade's frustration is the legal limitations ASD faces when communicating incidents to parents.
"I’m upset that there’s a federal mandate that protects kids [in a] disciplinary position, then leaves my kid vulnerable," she said.
Dr. Bishop said the incident, while fortunately did not end in injury to students or staff, raises concerns about the community as a whole.
"We’re really a microcosm of our greater community," she said, "and for a young child to have access to a loaded gun is a very serious issue, not only for the child that comes to school, but for all of us really in our community."
APD is actively investigating the incident, including the child's home situation.
According to the ASD elementary school student handbook:
"The possession and/or use of weapons or items designed to look like weapons under school district jurisdiction are strictly prohibited by school board policy. municipal ordinance and federal law. Weapons include, but are not limited to, firearms, pellet guns, stun guns, shockers, knives, clubs, metal knuckles, numchuks and throwing weapons. Students possessing weapons are subject to disciplinary action up to and including expulsion. Students possessing guns on school grounds will be recommended for expulsion."
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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