ZEBULON — What was initially suspected to be a functional handgun on the Wakelon Elementary School campus on May 8 turned out to be a toy pistol and a major relief to staff and students.
A teacher reported a fifth-grader at the school had what appeared to be a gun in their book bag just as students arrived to their classrooms around 9:15 a.m. The plastic pistol was small and black. Only a bright orange tip indicated it might be a toy.
“It did look real,” Principal Tad Sherman said in an interview Monday. “There was a discrepancy over if it was a toy gun or a BB gun.”
Sherman brought the student and book bag into his office, where he confirmed the pistol was a toy. He said its presence on campus was the offshoot of play at home earlier that morning – not involving any other student.
Before the end of the school day, Sherman spoke to the fifth-grade student body and explained there was a situation, but ensured the students the pistol was a toy and no one was in danger.
He also passed on that information in a phone message to parents of his fifth-grade students before the end of the day. Sherman said if the pistol was real, all parents of students at the school would have been notified immediately.
“It was obviously a toy,” Sherman said. “But we do take it very seriously because of all the school violence that’s come up in recent years.”
He was pleased with how his faculty and students reacted to the first real security scare under his watch at the school.
“It’s definitely the first time I’ve ever dealt with anything this serious,” he said. “I applaud the way it was handled by our staff and students – peacefully and calmly.”
Sherman declined to say how the student wasdisciplined, but said “appropriate action was taken.”
Wake County school system policy Code of Student Conduct – policy 6410 – classifies bringing to school a facsimile of a weapon, like the toy pistol the student brought onto the Wakelon grounds, a Level III offense. Such objects are defined as any copy of a weapon that could reasonably be perceived to be a real weapon.
“It is a level III offense, which can be long-term suspension or possible short-term suspension,” Stella Shelton, chief communications officer for Wake Schools, said.
While Level III violations are described as more severe offenses that support long-term suspensions of more than 10 days, one-year or expulsion, county policy also limits long-term suspensions issued to elementary students except in cases where students or staff are seriously injured, or when there is a serious threat to the safety of the school.
The policy also gives the principal the authority to recommend a suspension of 10 days or less based on the circumstances of theincident.