Student arrested after bringing handgun to school


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Student arrested after bringing a handgun into a Grady classroom on Sept. 5.

A Grady student was arrested after bringing a handgun and marijuana to school today in a backpack.

Administrators confiscated the backpack, holding the firearm during first period and contacted the Atlanta Police Department. The student is currently being held at the Fulton County Jail. Bringing a gun on school grounds is a felony. 

No students were harmed, and the firearm was never removed from the backpack prior to confiscation. The student arrived to school on a late bus, and therefore, was not subject to any metal detectors or bag check procedures that are normally put into place. 

The day before, on Sept. 4, the student in custody was reported for taking another student’s property and statements were given to the administration describing the incident. One statement prompted a response from the administration this morning, Sept. 5, in which the administration had a premeditated plan to search the student’s backpack upon arrival to school today. During this search, a firearm was found in the backpack of the student.

Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman questioned the student following the confiscation of the firearm. She described the student as not being over 105 pounds. Dr. Bockman, who has personally known the student since her time as principal at Inman Middle School, prior to coming to Grady in 2016, believes the weapon was not intended for use on school property.

Some members of the administration, including Dr. Bockman believe that the student brought the wrong backpack to school by accident as the student indicated to administrators.

 “You are late, the bus is late, you know that you have to get to school,” Dr. Bockman said. “Your brain is under stress, under fire all the time, you pick up the wrong backpack.”

Dr. Bockman said she empathizes with the students who have parents who are unable to engage or are not as affluent as others. She made note that many Grady students are growing up without a motivating adult figure to provide safety and stability. 

“They deal with life as it comes,” Dr. Bockman said. “The challenges, the bruises, the hard knocks, with no one to soften them, so many of them feel like they have to take matters into their own hands, in their neighborhoods, in their communities, but not in schools. They have to be prepared for the unexpected.”

Ulrick Bien-Aime, father of sophomore Omari Bien-Aime, added that the lack of coping skills can lead to bad decisions.

“Most students now are not able to express themselves in a confrontational manner in any way, except for a fight. Their confrontation is with a weapon, which is sad, which is very sad. The cowardly child that may feel they’re bullied or just may not be able to handle sarcasm from other students, may go acquire a gun, and come back and shoot somebody. The emotional state, of not only in the country, but of the youth, is very fragile, so, [it] is of concern.”

Dr. Bockman notified parents through email at 12:16 p.m. and sent home a letter with students. The email and letter informed the parents of a “contraband” and “weapon” brought onto school campus but did not specifically define the weapon as a handgun.

“They deal with life as it comes. The challenges, the bruises, the hard knocks, with no one to soften them, so many of them feel like they have to take matters into their own hands, in their neighborhoods, in their communities, but not in schools. They have to be prepared for the unexpected.”

— Dr. Bockman

After reiterating the importance of safety in schools, Dr. Bockman said there is zero tolerance for any weapons brought onto school property, regardless of intention. 

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen spoke in regards to school safety following the Grady community meeting tonight, which she attended.

“Part of the work we do in APS around safety and security is important,” Dr. Carstarphen said. “That involves a lot of mental and behavioral health support before they think about doing something inappropriate, whether that’s a fight or considering a weapon, that we’ve done everything we can as early as we can.” 

Dr. Bockman said the most important step a school can take in preventing these types of events is to make strong connections and build trust with students.

“I guess the administration was trying to keep it on the low because we didn’t have a lockdown,” said senior Taliyah Holloway, who is running for Executive President of the Student Government Association. “It’s good they had a plan to execute without everyone knowing and causing panic. If they had told us in class, students would have been calling parents.” 

Holloway said there has not been any change safety-wise or among the students in response to the incident. The school renovation that will begin in early 2020 will include a new, clear entrance for students that will increase security.

Bien-Aime said currently, the security lapse allowing the weapon to slip through is a problem.

“Everyone that comes into the school needs to go through a security measure, whether you come in on time or come in late,” Bien-Aime said. “That is a problem there. [Coming in late] should be even more of a reason to be suspicious.”