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December 04, 2008
Officials praise students
BEDFORD, New Hampshire (STPNS) -- The students who told staff about a gun at Bedford High School the day before Thanksgiving are the silver lining behind the incident, said School Board Chairman David Sacks.
Students said they?d heard a rumor that a student was carrying a gun, and when administrators and School Resource Officer William Donahue investigated, they found an unloaded .38 caliber handgun in a student?s backpack. The student did not have any ammunition.
?I?m impressed that the student body exhibited the maturity and the responsibility to share the information they had with the administration,? said Sacks.
Keeping an open line of communication with students is key to making school safe, said Principal George Edwards.
?We take rumors like that very seriously, and we follow up on them,? said Edwards.
The student may be expelled for at least a year, according to state law, said Edwards.
Police took the student into custody and later released him to his mother, according to a police statement. The student is a minor (younger than 17), so his identity and many details about the incident will not be released.
But in a letter sent home to parents, Edwards emphasized that the student and the gun had been removed from the school and that bringing a gun to school ?is punishable by expulsion from school ?for a period of not less than 12 months.??
Edwards answered a few e-mails from concerned parents over the weekend, but otherwise, there hasn?t been much reaction from parents, he said on Monday.
?I tried to give them as much information as I could to allay any concerns that they had,? Edwards said.
After police took the student into custody, the administration made an announcement to students and staff, and distributed a letter for students to bring home to their parents.
?It appears that this was an isolated incident and there is no indication that the student had any intent to harm anyone,? says the letter.
According to a police statement, ?it appears that . . . at no time were any other students or staff members at risk.?
Edwards believes it was an isolated incident because the student had not brought the gun to school in order to intimidate or harm anyone, or in response to anything else that had happened at school, he said.
But the serious nature of the offense calls for expulsion from school, said Edwards.
?Whenever you hear that a student has brought a gun to school, that?s obviously a very serious situation, but fortunately, it wasn?t loaded, and there wasn?t any ammunition,? said Edwards.
Edwards praised the students for coming forward with information about the gun rumor, and the staff for acting on it quickly.
?It?s the best security measure we can have ? to have a student body and a staff that?s comfortable enough with each other to share this kind of information,? Edwards said.
That didn?t happen at the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Edwards pointed out, and Bedford students are aware of that.
Bedford High School has an active Rachel?s Challenge group, which is part of a national network named for one of the Columbine victims.
Rachel?s Challenge groups try to make students feel welcome and foster a supportive, open culture among the students.
?I think (the Rachel?s Challenge group) makes students aware of what took place at Columbine, and it makes them aware of the fact that there were individuals that were aware of the plan at Columbine, and they didn?t come forward. That heightens students? sensitivity to the fact that if they know something, it?s good, it?s okay to come forward,? Edwards said.
The school board has considered using metal detectors for security in the past but rejected the idea, said Sacks.
?It?s been discussed, but it comes with a whole set of consequences, of culture, of cost, and it?s a different kind of environment. We?d rather have a student body and a school that?s accountable and mature, to monitor themselves, and report a situation where things aren?t as they should be,? Sacks said.
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