FYN spoke at length with Fannin County School District Superintendent Mark Henson this morning (August 20) about the incident.
Henson said that the gun involved was a rusty kit model that could be obtained on-line and assembled without any license or permit.
School staff and 3 School Resource Officers (SRO’s) searched the bus and other areas for evidence of the gun powder necessary to fire the weapon but none could be found. Nor did the search result in locating a ’patch’ (used to compact the gun powder) or a ‘percussion cap.’ All three elements: gun powder, percussion cap, and patch, are necessary to cause the replica-style gun to fire.
“At no time was that gun able to fire. There is no way a 7 year-old would be capable of making it fire.”
The superintendent combed passages of federal law instructing schools as to the disciplinary procedures required when a student brings a weapon to school. While the penalty is most often that the student be suspended for a year, Henson found a citation that allowed schools some discretion within the statute.
Given that the student (a girl) was only 7 years of age and had, according to Henson, “absolutely no ill intent at all” the decision was made to abandon consideration that the child face a one year suspension.
“We determined that we had to waive the suspension because it was way too harsh in this case. We are here to protect children first, we did that. Then, our goal is to graduate children so they can become productive adults. If we suspended this little girl, she may not be able to go on. That would be a ridiculous course of action.”
Henson told FYN that he conferred with Fannin County Sheriff, Dane Kirby, and Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Alison Sosebee and both agreed that a lengthy suspension was unduly harsh –given the circumstances in the case.
School bus videotapes revealed a small girl with a pleasant demeanor who obviously considered the gun a toy and who napped on the trip to school.
Henson said that disciplinary action toward the child, and the identity of the child’s parents, cannot be disclosed.
He did send a notice out to parents whose children attend the elementary school enclosed in each child’s backpack. Later, he sent out a system-wide notice telling parents the circumstances of the event.
“The county had cool heads yesterday. I am very proud of how my staff reacted. They performed according to their training and we did well, which resulted in a good outcome.“
FYN Managing Editor, Pam O’Dell, contributed to this article.
From yesterday, School Superintendent Mark Henson got the worst possible call on Tuesday morning as he was told of a gun brought to East Fannin Elementary School.
Upon arrival at EFES, Henson told the media that he learned a second grader had carried a weapon on the property. School officials said another child had seen the gun and told a teacher. The teacher then inspected the child finding the weapon.
According to Henson, the gun was a cap and ball 45 Derringer kit gun.
The gun was not loaded and had no cap or powder to fire the weapon. School Resource Officers were on the scene and made sure that the gun was unloaded.
“There was no way to fire the pistol. There was never any danger or any ill intent.”
The school system has reviewed school bus videotapes and informed the media that the child slept most of the way to school and that they had looked at all of the places the child had apparently been with and no signs of powder or cap to fire the gun had been found.
During a press conference on the matter, Henson stated:
“The bad news is we have to treat it as a firearm. We have never had a situation like this…Georgia code will dictate what we have to do. We will treat the situation as fairly as we can.”
FYN is being told that the parents are currently being consulted and law enforcement will follow up on the incident. Henson said that people in the school system are researching what needs to be done to prevent such an occurrence again.
A new district weapons policy states:
“Students who possess any weapon described in paragraph 1 in violation of this policy will be subject to a minimum of a one calendar year suspension and will be referred to law enforcement officials.”
Below is the alert now message being sent home with the students.