Students told staff about rumored gun

BEDFORD – 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.

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, he said this week.

“I tried to give them as much information as I could to allay any concerns that they had,” said Edwards.

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,” said Edwards.

At the end of September, at Pennichuck Middle School in Nashua, two teens forced another student to submit to a beating at gunpoint, according to police. The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun, and afterward school officials asked students to help identify when weapons are brought to school.

State student survey results show about 6 percent of students have carried a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club on school property on one or more of the past 30 days, according to the results of the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Nearly 5 percent of students said they did not go to school on one or more of the past 30 days because they felt they would be unsafe.

Slightly more, 7 percent of students responding to the survey, said they have been threatened or injured with a weapon such as a gun, knife or club on school property one or more times during the past 12 months.