FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A 10-year-old child brought a handgun to a Fort Lauderdale elementary school Wednesday morning, the latest scare in a South Florida school year that has already seen a number of threats and weapons incidents.
Fort Lauderdale police say they were called to Walker Elementary School at 1001 Northwest 4th Street just after 8 a.m. when an unloaded gun was found in the student’s backpack.
The school returned to normal operations shortly after that. For a brief time, it was under a code-yellow lockdown, which generally means the school doors are locked as regular classroom instruction continues.
The student was not arrested, at the request of the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
“Investigating detectives reached out to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office who advised them not to take the child into custody,” Fort Lauderdale Det. Ali Adamson said in an email. “The Broward County State Attorney’s Office asked for the report of the incident to be provided to their office for a referral.”
The Broward State Attorney’s Office released the following statement: “After speaking with detectives and reviewing the circumstances and available evidence, prosecutors agreed that the appropriate response is to make sure that the family gets the help and services they need. They are being referred to the appropriate child protective agencies, rather than criminalizing this 10-year-old child. Our primary concern is the safety of the community. As you know, the gun was not loaded and school authorities handled the matter appropriately when they were notified that the child had brought a gun to school.”
Broward County Public Schools said that it could not divulge discipline faced by the student but said it would be done in accordance with the student code of conduct.
Some frustrated parents rushed to Walker Elementary to pick up their children after hearing news of the gun.
A parent told Local 10 News that she found out about the scare from a news alert, not the school, and said she is concerned about the number of guns being reported at schools across South Florida this year.
“I feel like they do need metal detectors and checking backpacks, because this is ridiculous,” parent Monique Higgins said. “It’s like an everyday thing kids are showing up with guns. ... You telling me that you can’t control kids? You telling me you can’t monitor your kids?”
Another parent said he did get a text message from the school saying it was on a code yellow but that everyone was safe.
Broward County Public Schools released the following about the incident:
“The safety and security of our students and staff are always the first priority. During Wednesday morning’s incident at Walker Elementary School, as soon as school administration received information about a potential weapon on campus, the student was immediately located and his belongings secured before a code alert was issued.
The school’s administration commends the quick actions of everyone involved in safely addressing and quickly resolving the situation, including the District’s School Investigative Unit with the assistance of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
The first parent notification was issued at 9:06 a.m. this morning and read as follows: ‘We are on a code yellow, however all students and staff are safe and we have resumed normal activities.’
After receiving the all clear from law enforcement, the following message was issued by the school’s leadership through ParentLink at 12:09 p.m.:
‘Good afternoon Walker Elementary parents. This is Principal Eligon calling to make you aware of an incident at our school today. A student was found in possession of a weapon on campus this morning. School staff and the police department immediately and safely resolved the situation. We will continue to work with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the District’s Special Investigative Unit regarding this incident.
‘Please know that all students and staff are safe. We are requesting that you talk with your child about the importance of following school rules, particularly with regard to weapons. The safety and security of our students and staff are our highest priorities. We encourage all students, parents, employees and community members – if you see something, say something.
‘If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact the school. Have a safe day.’
The school’s principal spoke with one parent who stated he/she did not receive notification of the incident. The parent was asked to make sure the contact information provided to the school, as well as preferred mode of contact, is current.
It is imperative for parents to ensure their contact information on file at the school is accurate. Messages are delivered to families in the method they identify as their preferred mode of contact, which can be via text, email and/or phone call.”