An eighth grader at Hancock Middle School brought an inoperable .22-caliber handgun to school on Jan. 4, just weeks before the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 16 students and one coach dead.
Hancock County officials released information about the incident after the media heard about it on social media and started asking questions.
According to Hancock County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Don Bass, a school official found the gun in a zipped pocket of the student’s book bag. The gun, however, did not have a trigger mechanism necessary to use it.
The student was taken into custody on a charge of possession of a weapon on school property. The case is in Hancock County Youth Court, though Bass said the student has been expelled.
“It was an isolated incident,” Bass said. “But we are very concerned when anything happens on the school grounds.”
Mississippi took center stage in the mass shooting coverage early on when one of the first occurred at Pearl High School in October 1997. In that shooting, student Luke Woodham stabbed and beat his mother to death before he went to the high school with a rifle and shot nine students, killing two of them. That shooting is believed to have helped inspire other school shootings in the years that followed.
Since last week’s carnage at the Florida school, parents in South Mississippi have used Facebook and other social media to express their concerns about other incidents involving weapons at South Mississippi schools that went unreported.
In one Facebook post, a parent from Central Middle School in Gulfport said she had to learn from her own child that a student had brought a gun to school. The child’s version of the story was little off, though.
According to the Gulfport School District, the Jan. 31 incident involved a student who threatened to harm another student in a classroom. Another student overheard the threat and reported it to school officials.
“There was no gun involved,” Gulfport School District spokesperson MC Barton said. “A student made a threat to possibly harm another student in a classroom. That student faced disciplinary action. We don’t take threats lightly.”
The school district, she said, is still in the process of “dealing with” that incident. In addition, she said, school officials are fielding calls from parents who thought the school district failed to tell them about a child on campus with a gun.
In an unrelated incident Thursday, the Gautier High School principal alerted parents to an alleged threat made against students on Thursday, though the information was not released until after the school day ended.
And on Friday, Long Beach Police arrested two 17-year-olds who made threats of violence at Long Beach High School. The teens were charged with simple assault/attempt by physical menace to create fear.
Officials with the Pascagoula-Gautier School District said Gautier police investigated and the school had taken appropriate action.
Though school officials cannot discuss any specifics regarding minors, state law calls for the mandatory expulsion of students who are found with a weapon or are engaged in a violent act on school property.
Here’s a look at some of the other incidents involving weapons other safety concerns at South Mississippi schools:
- Nov. 4, 2017: Pascagoula police provided added security at Pascagoula High School after a social media post suggested a gang from a Moss Point school planned to retaliate against a rival gang at the Pascagoula school. The School District informed parents additional measures were in place to ensure the safety of students, though many parents kept their children home that day.
- Jan. 30, 2017: D’Iberville police arrested alternative school student Andryus Walker-Wells, 18, on a felony charge of possession of a weapon on school property. Police took Walker-Wells into custody after D’Iberville school officials received information about student with a gun in a parked car at D’Iberville High School.
- Dec. 11, 2017: Pass Christian police initiated an investigation after a kindergarten student at Pass Christian Elementary was caught with a gun on campus. Police did not say whether the gun was loaded.
- Nov. 9, 2016: a 13-year-old seventh grader at North Gulfport 7th & 8th Grade School was arrested after he was caught on campus with a pellet gun, several knives and a carbon dioxide cartridge. Gulfport police said a female student dared the boy to bring the weapons to school and no one was in harm’s way. The student was arrested taken into custody and turned over to the Harrison County Youth Detention Center.
- April 7, 2016: a 14-year-old student brought a loaded handgun with over 100 rounds of ammunition to North Gulfport 7th & 8th Grade School. The student was arrested and turned over to the Harrison County Youth Detention Center. Another student told a school administrator about the gun, ammo, and extra magazines.
- Oct. 9 2015: A Harrison County Central High School student was arrested after he brought an unloaded handgun to school. The gun was found in the student’s backpack. Harrison County sheriff’s deputies arrested the student and turned over to the Harrison County Youth Detention Center.
- April 9, 2014: A 15-year-old student was arrested on a charge possession of a weapon by a student after he brought a .45 automatic pistol to Vancleave High School. Others reported the incident after the student “brandished” it to his classmates. The student was turned over to the Jackson County Youth Detention Center.
- Jan. 30, 2007: A 15-year-old student at North Gulfport 7th & 8th Grade was arrested after he showed off a loaded .22-caliber pistol he brought to school with him. The student showed off the gun near the end of the school day and it was reported to police.
- Sept. 29, 2003: A 7-year-old at East Park Elementary in Moss Point brought a gun to school. Moss Point school officials said the student found the gun in a trash can near a home where some residents had recently moved. The gun was inoperable, but parents were upset at the time because no one told them about the weapon found on campus.