Updated: 10-year-old student arrested for possession of a toy gun

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(File Photo)

Updated 10:58 a.m. Thursday

Note to readers: This is the finished article as it appeared in today’s edition of the Times. Earlier updates are posted below.

By Derrick Perkins

A 10-year-old Douglas MacArthur Elementary School student was charged with brandishing a weapon after police officers found a toy gun in his backpack Tuesday morning.

Alexandria City Public Schools officials alerted authorities after learning the fifth-grade child had shown a “weapon” to classmates on the bus ride home Monday afternoon, said district spokeswoman Kelly Alexander. By the time district staff contacted ACPS’ transportation company, all of the children had been dropped off for the day, she said.

Though a surveillance camera taped the ride, administrators reviewing the film did not see a weapon. Attempts to contact the suspected child’s guardian likewise proved unsuccessful. The contact information they provided to the district was erroneous, Alexander said.
School staff intercepted the child as he arrived Tuesday morning — he did not take the bus, Alexander said — and officers retrieved the toy gun from his bag, according to law enforcement officials.

Police department spokesman Jody Donaldson described the fake weapon as a silver handgun with a black handle and orange tip.

“The gun did not actually shoot or propel anything,” Donaldson said.

The child was taken into police custody on the misdemeanor charge following the incident and suspended from the Janneys Lane school, officials said. Superintendent Morton Sherman did not rule out the possibility of expulsion in a statement released after the incident.

“The safety of our students is always our first concern,” he said. “The school division will complete its investigation in cooperation with the police as we consider further disciplinary action, including expulsion. As always, we encourage direct communication from parents, including personal phone calls.”

Officials did not say why the toy gun rose to the level of an arrest, but police spokeswoman Ashley Hildebrandt described the department’s response as “pretty standard.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel could not say whether his office would prosecute the case until he had reviewed police reports, witness statements and other evidence. He could not recall handling a similar case in his lengthy career as a prosecutor in Alexandria.

“We treat this like we do every case — we don’t make snap decisions,” Sengel said. “I can’t recall a case [that] has a similar fact pattern based on what I know. Of course, one of the things you do say in this business is that there’s always something new that comes up.”

The incident is not isolated. A student at Mount Vernon Community School allegedly handed out Airsoft pellet guns at the facility’s playground in mid-August, which also prompted a police response. The students involved were reprimanded, the principal said in a letter to parents sent out at the time.

And it’s a situation school officials across the country have dealt with in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. In recent weeks, a 6-year-old in South Carolina was expelled for bringing a plastic toy gun to school and a high school student in Arizona was suspended after using an image of an AK-47 as the desktop wallpaper of his school-issued computer. Locally, a 6-year-old Montgomery County student was initially suspended after making a pretend gun with his hand.

 

Updated 5:33 p.m. Tuesday

A 10-year-old Douglas MacArthur Elementary school student was charged with brandishing a weapon after police officers found a toy gun in his backpack Tuesday morning.

Alexandria City Public Schools officials alerted authorities after learning from the parent of another student that the fifth grade child had shown a “weapon” to classmates on the bus ride home Monday afternoon, said district spokeswoman Kelly Alexander. By the time district staff contacted ACPS’ transportation company, all of the children had been dropped off for the day, she said.

Though a surveillance camera filmed the ride, administrators reviewing the tape did not spot a weapon. Attempts to speak with the suspected child’s guardian likewise proved unsuccessful. The contact information they provided to the district was erroneous, Alexander said.

School staff intercepted the child as he arrived Tuesday morning — he did not take the bus, Alexander said — and officers retrieved the toy gun from his bag, according to police officials.

Police department spokesman Jody Donaldson described the replica weapon as a silver handgun with a black handle and orange tip.

“The gun did not actually shoot or propel anything,” Donaldson said.

The minor was taken into police custody on the misdemeanor charge following the incident and suspended from the Janney’s Lane school, officials said. Superintendent Morton Sherman did not rule out a possible expulsion in a statement released after the incident.

“The safety of our students is always our first concern,” he said. “The school division will complete its investigation in cooperation with the police as we consider further disciplinary action, including expulsion. As always, we encourage direct communication from parents, including personal phone calls.”

-Derrick Perkins