EAST MONTGOMERY COUNTY – New Caney ISD officials held an emergency meeting White Oak Middle School parents Thursday night in the wake of an earlier announcement that a seventh-grader had a loaded gun on campus. It was the second firearm confiscated from a New Caney ISD student during the current school year. The first incident occured on the Kings Manor Elementary campus on September 30.
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The 13-year-old, who cannot be legally identified because of his age, took the gun from his home and rode the school bus to the campus. The armed student went to his classes like any other school day, until 11:20 when another student, who Superintendent Kenn Franklin is calling a “hero,” saw the gun and notified a teacher.
Franklin says three other students already knew about the gun, but remained silent, which is an issue district officials plan to address with students in a Friday morning assembly.
The 13-year-old was arrested and charged with Unlawful Carry and Places Weapons Prohibited, (third-degree felonies).
When asked about the legalities of leaving the loaded gun accessible to the student in the home, NCISD Police Chief Troy Wootton said the investigation was ongoing and others could face charges. Officials also stated Child Protective Services would be notified of the incident.
Around 100 parents attended the Thursday night meeting after they were notified of the firearm incident through handouts, texts, phone calls and emails. Attendees showed a wide range of reactions as they asked questions and voiced concerns until officials ended the session two hours later.
NCISD representatives participating in the lengthy question and answer session were Franklin, Wootton, Assistant Superintendent Morris Fuselier, WOMS Principal Paula Burk, and Kelley Mattlage, NCISD director of communications and community relations.
A microphone was passed around to parents who had questions or comments, as officials tried to reassure them plans were already in place to address the issue on several levels.
One woman said her son had asked the day before to be home schooled because of fighting earlier in the week. Wootton acknowledged there had been an assault, but said it was handled according to their policies which involve issuing citations for minor mutual combat and arresting those who commit a violent attack.
One parent asked if the armed student took the gun to school because someone was picking on him and Franklin said he personally asked the child that question. The answer was ‘no,’ he said.
Questions were raised about whether any recent problems between students were racially motivated, but officials said the students involved in the fights were the same ethnicity. Officials also said there was no known gang affiliation.
Parents were told a district police officer would be assigned to the campus full-time, at least temporarily, and some asked why there was not an officer on campus at all times. Turns out, NCISD has only four school district police officers whose time is divided between all of the campuses.
Franklin and Fuselier assured parents the number of officers would be addressed in the next NCISD budget cycle, particularly since a second high school is scheduled to open in the fall.
Franklin said concealment would be seriously examined, with possible remedies including clear or mesh backpacks or more drastic measures such as uniforms and banning purses and jackets. He said the method worked well at a larger district where he was previously employed.
But at least one parent objected to that potential solution.
Kassandra McCray likened the idea to making the school into “a prison.” McCray has a seventh-grade daughter at WOMS, a child who graduated from New Caney High School and a son in the fifth grade at another NCISD campus.
McCray was among the parents who signed up Thursday night for a committee the district is now forming to discuss how to prevent such incidents.
The next meeting for parents will be held on Friday at 6 p.m. in the WOMS cafeteria.
In the end, McCray complained that there were no real answers provided by officials, but said NCISD is a good district and she knows they are trying.
There was no real explanation given for what the student planned to do with the loaded weapon, besides show it to his friends. District officials promised parents the rest of the students will be given a clear understanding of the seriousness of having a gun on campus and of knowing somone had a gun and not telling anyone.
The message posted on the NCISD website on Thursday:
White Oak Middle School Student Brings Gun on Campus
A 7th grade student was removed from White Oak Middle School and placed in police custody after he brought a gun onto campus Thursday morning. Administrators were notified after a student came forward around 11:20 a.m.
The student is charged with Unlawful Carry and Places Weapons Prohibited, both 3rd degree felonies. New Caney ISD strongly adheres to Federal Law and the NCISD Student Code of Conduct regarding the possession of a firearm on school property. An incident of this nature mandates a 1-year expulsion.
“Today’s incident is deeply disturbing. We work very hard to provide a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff. It’s disheartening when that safe environment is compromised,” said Superintendent Kenn Franklin. NCISD is currently reviewing safety procedures. Parent meetings are planned for Thursday, January 21 at 7 p.m. and Friday, January 22 at 6 p.m. at the White Oak Middle School cafeteria to discuss the incident and address parent concerns.