LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — A sixth grader brought a semi-automatic gun and loaded magazine to Harns Marsh Middle School in December. Lee County School Board voted to expel him from the district Tuesday.
The 12-year-old was arrested and charged for having the gun on school grounds. No one was hurt, but law enforcement expert David Thomas says that could’ve changed in seconds.
“You can take it and go, ‘Oh, it’s unloaded’ and you pull the trigger, and then boom, you shot somebody,” he said referring to the students handling the gun.
Jacqueline Perez advocated on the student’s behalf Tuesday during the school board hearing. She says there should be more accountability on the faculty and staff at the school since the student took it out of his backpack several times to show classmates.
“He removed it in the lunchroom, he removed it in the hallway, he removed it in a couple of classes, said Perez. “Why did it take until the end of the day before they received the message?”
The school was not locked down. The Assistant Principal at Harns Marsh was demoted for mishandling the situation. Perez also says the student showed signs of behavioral threats which the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) now mandates schools to identify and provide support for.
“Where was that help for him? That’s the fear that I have for him. Where was that help?” asked Perez.
The student’s discipline summary shows he was suspended several times within the months leading to his arrest. A doctor’s note reveals he was diagnosed with ADHD and impulsive control disorder in 2018.
Although Thomas says the child should be disciplined for bringing the gun to school, he believes he deserves a shot at alternative school. Without it, he said he could be on a dangerous path.
“Oftentimes leads to, because of lack of supervision, leads to them getting involved in activities that you wouldn’t want your child involved in at all, such as gangs and drugs, or whatever,” said Thomas “The school district should have mental health counselors on staff in order to be able to address these issues.”
Perez also reached out to the FDOE after the student was expelled. FDOE said they plan to talk to the student’s mother about the expulsion.