Tuesday was supposed to be Picture Day at Bloomfield Middle School.
Instead, the day’s sense of normalcy came to end early in the morning when a gun a student brought to the school discharged inside a classroom.
No one was injured in the incident, and no school property was damaged, Bibb County school officials said. One 14-year-old student, a seventh-grade boy, was removed from campus and questioned. School officials said they’re fairly certain the boy is the student who took the gun to school.
If found guilty, the student, whose identity school officials did not reveal, could face expulsion from school as well as criminal charges, said Craig Lockhart, an assistant Bibb County school superintendent of student support services.
As word of the episode spread across the Bloomfield community through the morning, several parents and family members showed up at the school to check on their children or pull them from school for the rest of the day.
Many of the parents said they were upset that they found out about the incident either from news reports or from friends and neighbors, not from school officials. Bloomfield students were sent home Tuesday with a letter for their parents explaining what had happened.
Some parents said they were angry they were given conflicting information.
“When I called (the school), they told us there was no shot,” said Angela Butts Miller, who showed up at Bloomfield Middle with her father, Earnest Butts, to check on her nephew. “But the news said there was a shot. ... I was praying hard to keep him safe. You hear about this all the time at other places, but you don’t think it will happen where your people are.”
School system officials said that at 8:10 a.m., a teacher heard a firecracker-like sound in a classroom for students assigned to in-school suspension. Lockhart said there were three students in the room at the time.
Initially, school officials said the gun was in a book bag, but officials later said they weren’t certain of the gun’s location before it discharged. Students at the school are required to use see-through book bags.
Chris Floore, a school system spokesman, said the teacher in the room immediately told school administrators about the sound, and a search of the room produced a .38-caliber pistol and a shell casing.
Lockhart said the boy tried to hide the gun by sitting on it.
The boy told campus police officers he dropped the gun and it went off, but Lockhart said the classroom wasn’t damaged. Officers were still questioning the boy late Tuesday, he said.
School officials don’t believe the boy took the gun to school intending to harm anyone.
“We believe it was something stemming over from the community,” Lockhart said. “We don’t have any reason to believe he was targeting any adults or any students at the school.”
Bibb school’s superintendant Sharon Patterson said, “We are very fortunate students and faculty remained safe. Based on the outcome of the investigation, the district is prepared to administer the full-level of discipline possible.”
After the gun was found, administrators immediately sent for campus police and instituted a “code red” lockdown. In that situation, students and teachers wait in their classrooms until the emergency is over. During the lockdown, campus police searched the entire school but found no other dangerous objects, Floore said.
Lockhart said school officials later changed the threat level to a “code yellow,” in which students are allowed to leave their classrooms, albeit under close supervision, for the rest of the day.
“It’s a heightened sense of security,” Lockhart said. “Campus police and administrators acted quickly and got the situation under control.”
Floore and Lockhart said they knew of no other incident with a firearm on the Bloomfield campus. In the five years Floore has worked for the school board, he said he doesn’t remember an incident of a gun being fired on a Bibb County school campus.
Yolissa Jackson, whose daughter Keyuna is an eighth-grade student at the school, met with school officials Tuesday and then took her daughter home. Jackson said she already was speaking with school officials because Keyuna was being harassed by what she described as a “girl gang” at the school.
“This is a hard pill to swallow,” Jackson said. “I don’t feel safe or confident (about the school). Their story keeps changing. They had staff members telling different stories.”
Keyuna Jackson said she was in class when the code red was announced, but most students weren’t sure what was going on at the time.
A teacher later told them a student had a gun. She said she felt “OK” about returning to the school, but her mother wasn’t so sure.
Steven Harris also came to the school to take his daughter, Heather, home for the day.
Harris said he’s upset that Bloomfield doesn’t have metal detectors.
“It’s just crazy,” he said. “Other schools have gun detectors. Why doesn’t this school have it?”
Heather Harris, an eighth-grader, said she thought the code red might have been a drill until she heard noises in the hallway.
Teresa Sidney, one of the first parents to arrive at the school, said she wanted to check on her daughter’s safety.
Sidney’s daughter, an eighth-grader, has attended Bloomfield Middle since the sixth grade. She said another parent called her and told her what had happened, and she hurried to the school.
“I cried,” she said. “I was going to pull her out.”
But Sidney said she decided against it after talking to her daughter. Sidney said she was mostly satisfied how the situation was handled.
“I feel (the administration) did a great job, but I think people are going to be upset and panic when they hear” what happened, she said.