Two Rutland Middle School eighth-graders were charged Tuesday after school officials found an unloaded handgun inside a female student’s purse in a male student’s locker.
The 13-year-old male, who school officials say brought the .22-caliber gun to school, was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a weapon on school grounds, possession of a handgun by a minor and disrupting a public school. He was taken to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Macon.
The 14-year-old girl, who owned the purse, was charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds, possession of a handgun by a minor and disruption of a public school. She also was taken to the detention center.
About 9 a.m., a Rutland Middle School student told an administrator he saw a boy with a gun in the school restroom, said Craig Lockhart, the school system’s assistant superintendent for student support services.
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About 9:15 a.m., the school was placed in lockdown. The front doors were locked and students were required to stay in their classrooms. The principal found the male suspect in class shortly afterward.
“They conducted a search and found a gun in a purse in the young man’s locker,” Lockhart said.
The gun was not loaded. As to motive, “We don’t know any of that,” Lockhart said.
The episode marks the first gun case at a Bibb County public school this school year, he said.
Students who are found guilty by a hearing officer of bringing weapons on campus face minimum expulsions of 365 days from school, as well as the prospect of punishment in Bibb County Juvenile Court.
“The district leans toward permanent expulsion,” Lockhart said. “It’s very disheartening. We try to work with our students to instill values to do the right thing.”
Kevin Plymel arrived at Rutland Middle just after the school went into lockdown Tuesday. He waited in the parking lot to drop off his daughter, a sixth-grader who was late because of a dentist’s appointment.
The news of a gun at his daughter’s school was a little nerve wracking, he said while sitting in his truck.
“I know it happens,” he said. “I guess I’m glad to know the board of education police are being proactive and controlling the situation.”
Rutland Middle was lifted from a “code red” after an hour, at 10:15 a.m., but it remained on a moderate “code yellow” throughout the day. That is a heightened state of alert, but one that allows students to move from classrooms.
School officials said students are coming forward more often to report weapons at school to try to prevent injury.
“In this case, there was one hero who came forward in this unfortunate event,” Lockhart said.
Rutland Middle School parents were notified of the incident by the system’s automated phone and e-mail message system and through letters sent home with students.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.