The Ridgeview Charter eighth-grader was taken into custody after being approached by an administrator on campus Aug. 26. His name was not released because he is a minor.
According to an arrest report, two classmates alerted a school official after the 13-year-old student flashed the weapon — a fully loaded 9 mm handgun — to them during class and said he was going to shoot someone at school. An unarmed assistant principal later confronted the student, escorting him to the principal’s office before notifying law enforcement.
The student later admitted to authorities he was a member of the Hispanic street gang and that he needed a gun because of problems in his neighborhood and “wanted protection,” the report stated.
What’s nearly as alarming to parent Colleen Hartman as the gun being discovered on campus itself is that the vice principal diffused the situation.
“Where was the armed officer in the building…at the time?” Hartman said. “Why doesn’t the plan call for an armed officer to handle that and to put the building on lockdown?”
Fulton County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa told local news media that protocol in such situations calls for a school resource officer to respond to reports of an armed student.
District officials are investigating why that did not happen this time.
“We put procedures and policies in place and we have to make sure our employees follow them,” Avossa said. “If they don’t follow the procedures and policies we put in place, there are consequences that go along with that.”
Avossa also said the school was not put on lockdown because school staff and police believed they had contained the threat.
The incident marked the second time last month that a gunman was taken into custody on a local school campus.
Fulton School Board members addressed the averted tragedy at McNair Discovery Learning Academy in neighboring DeKalb County at their last meeting Aug. 22.
“I think all of our hearts miss a beat when we watch something like that unfold on the news,” said Fulton School Board President Linda Schultz.
On Aug. 20, a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle entered the elementary school and barricaded himself in the front office before firing shots at law enforcement officers on the scene. The school’s bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, is credited with de-escalating the situation by pacifying the alleged gunman, later identified by authorities as 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill.
Schultz alluded to yet another tragedy — one that hit close to home — in addressing the McNair Academy incident. She has a son who was a student at Virginia Tech when a fellow student opened fire on campus, killing 33 people before taking his own life.
“So, I do understand how those parents felt trying to understand what was happening to their child that day,” she said. “I want to commend the efforts of the DeKalb School System and the heroic efforts of that school staff throughout that day.
“And, I want to assure parents that we also have safety as a priority within this district and there are many things that we have in place to address this.”
Regarding the Ridgeview suspect’s alleged gang ties, school district Security Chief Mark Muma told local news reporters school police have a close relationship with the Sandy Springs Police Department and are trained on how to deal with gang activity.
Students believed to be taking part in gang activity and who get in trouble are required to take a course with their parents on the issue as part of their disciplinary action, Muma said.