Truckee middle school gun incident: ‘No tolerance for this type of offense’
TRUCKEE, Calif. — The 14-year-old male facing a felony charge for bringing a handgun Monday to Alder Creek Middle School will likely be expelled, and his parents may also face criminal charges, officials said.
California law mandates that students who bring a firearm to school are immediately suspended and recommended for expulsion. The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District is following those requirements, Superintendent Rob Leri said.
“Our district policy is clear in terms of a student bringing a firearm (on campus),” Leri said. “In a case of this nature, we will pursue this to the full letter of the law.”
In California, a student may be expelled from a single school or the entire district for up to a year. Once a recommendation for expulsion occurs, a student goes through various hearing processes, and does have the option to appeal any district or school board decision.
While state law prohibits school districts from publicly discussing the specific case of a minor-age student, Leri said TTUSD “has no tolerance for this type of offense.”
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The Alder Creek eighth-grader brought a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun to the school’s campus Monday, according to TTUSD and the Truckee Police Department.
No one was hurt, and students at the school were never in danger, officials have repeatedly said.
The student had the gun in his backpack and showed it to at least four male students throughout the day, according to police.
TTUSD and police didn’t learn of the incident until about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, when a parent of one of the students who saw the gun on Monday called Alder Creek to report the student might be bringing it to school, said TPD Chief Adam McGill.
READ MORE: “There is no evidence to believe the student intended to cause any violence or threaten anyone,” officials said Tuesday.
Officers “immediately” responded and determined the student was riding a bus to school, McGill said, and it was decided, “the safest thing to do, rather than pulling the bus over … we allowed the bus to freely come to campus, and then we intercepted him.”
Police quickly determined the student was unarmed. After interviewing the student and the four others, police located the unloaded gun and unsecured ammunition inside the 14-year-old’s Truckee home later Tuesday.
“The student had found the unsecured firearm while looking for his mobile phone that had previously been taken from him by his parents for discipline purposes,” according to police. The student was arrested and released on a juvenile citation for a felony charge of bringing a firearm on a school campus.
That charge is separate from any TTUSD-led discipline.
It’s unknown if his parents will face criminal charges for not securing the firearm and ammunition.
“We’ll be referring the parents to the (Nevada County) District Attorney for review … within a few days … and any charges against the parents, the mom or dad or both, would come from the DA,” McGill said. “We are not making an arrest … unless the DA charges.”
“Appropriate disciplinary action” will also be taken against the four students who admitted seeing the gun, said Leri, adding that law prohibits him from commenting on each specific case.
All four students said the gun was not loaded when they saw it Monday, said Kelli Twomey, TTUSD Coordinator of Parent & Community Relations.
READ MORE: Monday’s incident that involved no one being hurt occurred on the two-year-and-one-day anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The staff at Alder Creek Middle “immediately” took action Tuesday once the call came in at 7:15 a.m., Leri said. He and other district staff were quickly on campus, and a “shelter in place was initiated so the police could search for the reported gun,” according to TTUSD.
A “shelter in place” is a less-extreme version of a full school lockdown, McGill said, in that doors are locked, students remain in whatever rooms they’re in — not moving on to their next class — and continue normal activities such as reading and teacher lecture.
“… This soft lockdown occurred for about 40-60 minutes until we were confident the firearm was not on the campus,” he said. “My post review of this event indicates TPD and TTUSD handled this situation in a highly professional and effective manner consistent with the best practices of this department and our profession.”
In a robo phone message/email sent to ACMS parents mid-Tuesday morning, Leri applauded staff and police for “immediately” responding to the school to ensure any potential threats were dealt with.
In the same message — which was sent in English and Spanish to all TTUSD parents Tuesday evening — Leri referred to it as “a serious and frightening incident” and asked parents to be more responsible.
“We need your assistance to help prevent something like this or worse happening at our schools in the future by eliminating access to firearms in your homes,’ Leri said. “Additionally, we need you to immediately report any information to the schools and/or law enforcement about potential threats to our schools.”
With the recent adoption by Truckee voters of Measure U in the election, Alder Creek is among many TTUSD schools scheduled to receive security enhancements such as fencing, a new camera system with more cameras, a new communication system, lighting and more secure entrances and office areas with unobstructed views of the front doors in coming years.
“While these may not have assisted in this week’s incident, they are part of our response to the larger issue of intruders on campus who may pose a threat to students and staff,” Leri said.
Moving forward, McGill is urging parents to be aware of their weapons.
“This event was preventable and could have ended in tragedy,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “It should serve as an urgent reminder to gun owners. Not only are you required by law to prevent access to children, firearms are also a favorite target for burglars. If you own a firearm, be responsible and invest in a lockable storage device.”
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