Byron Center Public Schools officials got a trial run in emergency safety procedures after a 13yearold student at West Middle School allegedly placed an Airsoft gun, reportedly disguised to look like a real gun, in his locker at school.
An Airsoft gun is a replica of a real gun, and is capable of shooting pellets. Typically they have an orange tip to distinguish them from real guns, but in this case, the orange tip had been covered over in black marker, according to Byron Center Public Schools Superintendent Dan Takens.
He told parents that a student had reported to his mother on Tuesday night that he had seen a gun in a locker at the end of the school day. The mother then contacted Krajewski, and Krajewski, along with Takens and Assistant Principal Jack Gitler, searched the lockers of all students who were potentially involved.
Takens said they didn’t find the gun in the locker during the search Tuesday night. But school officials met the student as soon as he got off the bus Wednesday morning, and he admitted to having it at school the day before.
Teachers were notified of the incident in a Wednesdaymorning meeting, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department worked with the school administrators in conducting the investigation, according to Krajewski’s letter.
The student is now on a 10day suspension, and Takens said the case would be evaluated next week to see if further disciplinary measures should be taken. Had it been a real gun, the student would be expelled, Takens said. But since it was not, school officials will be studying the issue further. An Airsoft gun “probably couldn’t kill anyone, but they can be reasonably powerful,” Takens said. “It can leave a welt on your arm.”
In some cases, students may accidentally bring a toy gun or Swiss army knife to school, Takens said. But it was clear that the student didn’t just forget he had the gun, and he had been talking about it as if it were real, Takens said. The fact that the witness didn’t see the orange tip was alarming to school administrators, he said.
“We’ll get together with the parents and talk it through next week,” he said. “We will really have to use discernment. We don’t want to overreact, but we have a little time to think that through.”
Takens said he was thankful that after the student saw what he thought was a real gun, everything fell into place according to the district’s safety procedures. As a trial run for a real emergency, it went pretty well, he said.
“I was so proud of this young man. He happened to look and saw the butt of a gun, told his mom right away about it, and she contacted the principal,” Takens said. “That’s how you prevent these things.”
Students were in the process of taking exams at West Middle School when the incident occurred, and Takens said he was also grateful that students were able to complete their exams without being aware that anything unusual was going on.
The Byron Center Public Schools District Crisis Team will be meeting with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department next week to review and update its existing safety procedures. The crisis team is made up of administrators, teachers, secretaries, and other school staff members. That meeting had already been scheduled when this week’s incident took place.