EDITORIAL: A Plea for Safety in our Schools

Last Monday, a student carried a gun into J.E. Hobbs Elementary School.

Teachers and classmates reported afterwards that the student, a 5th grade female, even went so far as to pull it out during class. Witnesses say the girl showed off the firearm to several classmates before threatening to shoot her teacher.
Some parents received texts from their children as the events played out.  Some decided to call school officials to report the incident, or at least find out exactly what was going on. According to one testimony on Facebook, school officials lied about the incident claiming, ‘it was only a rumor’.
That afternoon, parents were horrified to hear similar stories from the mouths of their own children.

Before long, a pattern of concerns that one could not ignore reached the local newspaper, whose reporters then  sought information from law enforcement.
Well, suffice it to say, we were shocked to hear that not a single arrest, police report, detainment—not so much as a single 911 call had been placed in regards to the gun-wielding student.

Nothing was reported by J.E. Hobbs administrators during, after, or the immediate day following the incident. Neither Chief Matthews of the Camden PD nor Sheriff Earnest Evans had heard a single thing about it.

The incident, for one reason or another, was kept quiet…

According to Wilcox Public Schools’ Superintendent Andre’ Saulsberry, the student was promptly escorted to the main office with the backpack used to carry the weapon, but what actions were taken immediately after–well, that’s still a mystery.
“I am grateful that the teacher and the student followed safety protocol,” says Saulsberry.
The Superintendent’s statement was worded very carefully, and for good reason.

J.E. Hobbs office administrators did not follow proper protocol once the weapon was obtained. There are no records of a 911 call being placed on the day of the incident, nor the day following.

The student involved has since been removed from classes, Saulsberry says. She will go before the Board of Education to deliberate disciplinary actions.
Carrying a Firearm onto school property is considered a Class 4 infraction, and is punishable by up to 1 year’s expulsion.

Possessing a Firearm or other deadly weapon on school grounds is classified as a Class 4 Infraction. Per the Wilcox County Public School’s Handbook, the protocol states that:
Administrators should refer to Due Process Guidelines in order to preserve the constitutional rights of the student.
Step #1 Principal shall notify law enforcement and Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO).
Step #2 Principal shall contact parent; parent shall be notified, in writing, of the pending charge. The student shall remain at home pending an administrative hearing.
Step #3 Principal shall notify superintendent (hearing officer) of the offense. Superintendent shall establish a time, place, and date of the pending hearing.
It is then that a hearing is administered to determine disciplinary action.
It is outrageous to think that our school leaders failed to contact law enforcement IMMEDIATELY. Such negligence is punishable on the Federal level.
God forbid this happen again, but I urge all administrators to recognize their role in these situations. Not to be a detective, or a law officer. These matters should not be taken into the hands of those who decide which hands should–MOST CERTAINLY, they should not even entertain the thought of keeping such a dangerous situation under wraps.

We are all thankful this incident did not escalate any higher. But parents deserve the peace-of-mind in knowing that, should this happen again, their children’s safety will be held to the highest priority and NOT the tactics it must take to avoid a smear in the local paper.

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