(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) — A Michigan school district has banned students from bringing backpacks to school after a third grade student brought a loaded handgun to campus — the second time that it has happened in the last two weeks.
Grand Rapids Public Schools said the decision came after it confiscated the handgun from the 8-year-old’s backpack on Wednesday, the fourth time the district has found a student at school with a gun this academic year. In three of the four incidents, guns were confiscated from elementary school students, including the incident last week.
“This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly and we know this poses a significant inconvenience for our families. I am more than frustrated that a decision like this is necessary, but we must put safety first,” Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Leadriane Roby said in a statement.
The district said the policy will remain in effect “until further notice.”
“Here we are again, and I will just say that I am frustrated, I am sad and I am angry that this continues to happen,” Roby said at a press conference Wednesday.
Another student realized there was a gun at school when the 8-year-old dropped their backpack. When the student picked up the bag, they realized it was heavier than it should have been and reported it to a teacher, Larry Johnson, the district’s executive director of public safety and school security, told reporters at a press conference.
The teacher then took immediate action to investigate and school officials discovered there was a weapon inside the bag, Johnson said. The incident was then reported to local police.
“I’m happy that we didn’t have a tragedy, but I’m frustrated that parents are not listening and we need them to listen and secure these weapons,” Johnson said.
Johnson said there was nothing in the 8-year-old’s history that would indicate they would bring a weapon to school.
“Now is the time to step up before we have a tragedy in this community. This is unacceptable. We will not continue to tolerate it,” Johnson said.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom told reporters that he anticipates there will be criminal charges in this incident and the prior incident last week when a 7-year-old brought a gun to school. He said the charges will not be against the children.
Winstrom called on parents to check their students’ backpacks before they go to school to insure the city can avoid a tragedy.
“Any child that had picked up that bag that manipulated the trigger — even through the bag — could have fired that handgun and it could have easily killed someone. So, that 8-year-old is a victim. I’m just thankful that we’re not talking about any other victims today,” Winstrom said.
Johnson said the district will deal with the students in a disciplinary manner as they see appropriate.
The district said it is working on enhancing its security protocol and it will be modifying its rules as needed. Johnson said the district will be enhancing its cameras and has invested in secured entryways.
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss called on parents to keep guns out of the hands of children, saying the city cannot do it alone.
“We can only do so much,” she said at a press conference. “Keeping our kids safe and keeping guns out of the hands of children, that is all of our responsibility. Every single community member, every single parent, needs to step up and be a part of this solution.”
Grand Rapids isn’t the only school in Michigan to recently ban backpacks. Flint Community Schools, about two hours east of Grand Rapids, made a similar move to disallow backpacks in late April.
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