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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Providence middle schooler was arrested and a teacher placed on leave following an incident last week where a 12-year-old student allegedly brought a BB gun to school.
Providence public schools spokesperson Suzanne Ouellette confirmed a science teacher at Roger Williams Middle School has been placed on leave pending an investigation.
The incident happened on Thursday, according to police, after students reported another student showed them a black gun in a fanny pack.
The 12-year-old boy was allegedly pointing the weapon – which was later discovered to be a BB gun — at students in class, according to police.
A letter sent home to parents said the school went into lockdown after the potential weapon was reported. The student was somehow able to leave the school, but was later arrested at a recreation center.
“No one was hurt, and police were immediately called,” Principal Christina Gibbons wrote in the letter to parents. “The student was apprehended outside the school, and an investigation is actively taking place presently. We want to reiterate that BB guns are not toys. Please make sure your child knows it is unacceptable.”
Three other nearby schools went into “secure status” during the events.
Police Maj. David Lapatin said the 12-year-old was arrested and charged with felony assault and disturbing a public assembly. He was sent to the Rhode Island training school.
Ouellette declined to comment as to why the staff member was placed on leave after the incident. But according to the police report, the teacher was called back to the school to be questioned by detectives, “as he had gone home.”
The report says the teacher told police he attempted to call the office and sent a text message to the principal “before leaving the school at the end of his contractual obligation.”
“When asked if he spoke to anyone from the administration in regards to a student possibly being in possession of a firearm before leaving school grounds, he stated he did not,” according to the police report.
Nearly an hour passed between when the students reported the potential gun to the teacher and when police were dispatched to the school, according to the report.
Ouellette said the teacher did report the incident to administrators, but declined to say what the district’s protocol is when a weapon is reported in school or whether he followed that protocol. It’s unclear if he called 911.
“PPSD will not be commenting further as there is an ongoing investigation,” Ouellette said.
Principal Gibbons did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The science teacher could not immediately be reached for comment. But Maribeth Calabro, the president of the Providence teachers union, said there are inconsistencies between the police report and the teacher’s account of the events. She declined to comment further because of a pending human resources hearing on the matter.
The incident is not the first time a possible firearm has been reported in a Providence school. In November, Del Sesto Middle School was briefly locked down after a student brought a BB gun to school.
In April of last year, a student brought a real gun – which turned out to be unloaded – to Nathanael Greene Middle School.
Steph Machado (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.
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