Student takes gun on bus

Published 12:51 pm Sunday, February 13, 2011

A 10-year-old third-grade student at West Bainbridge Elementary School boarded a Decatur County School system bus on Monday with a 45-caliber handgun in his backpack, school officials acknowledged Thursday.

The student boarded a bus in Attapulgus and rode it to Bainbridge Middle School, the transfer point where students board the buses that go to their respective schools. The gun was discovered after the student boarded the bus to be transported to West Bainbridge Elementary School, said Decatur County Board of Education Superintendent Fred Rayfield.

Other bus riders alerted the bus driver of the danger and the driver confiscated the student’s backpack before turning the student and the backpack over to administrators and school resource officers at West Bainbridge Elementary.

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The student was taken into custody by Bainbridge Public Safety, which called upon the Juvenile Justice Department.

According to Rayfield, the gun never left the backpack and never made it inside a building.

It was unclear why the student had the gun or what his intentions were, Rayfield said.

“I want to assure all of our parents and students that safety is our first priority,” Rayfield said. “The safety procedures we have in place were followed, and the gun was quickly and efficiently taken out of the school environment.”

The grandmother of the student in question is listed as his official guardian.

Rayfield indicated that he has turned the case over to the District Attorney’s office to investigate how the student had access to the weapon.

“We are vigorously pursuing every avenue to deal with everyone involved. We will be as heavy-handed as we can be with both the student and any adult involved in this situation,” Rayfield said.

The student was immediately placed on 10-day, out-of-school suspension. At some point during those 10 days, a hearing will be held before the school system’s disciplinary tribunal to determine further punishment for the student.

The tribunal consists of administrators and principals from within the system trained in the tribunal process. Because of the student’s age, expulsion from the school system is not possible, but alternative placement and banishment from riding a bus are possible outcomes, Rayfield said.