Education

Employee fired after failing to find gun in high school student’s backpack

Superintendent: How metal detectors will work at Douglass High School

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk talked about new measures to keep students safe at Frederick Douglass High School where a student accidentally shot himself with a gun he brought to school Friday.
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Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk talked about new measures to keep students safe at Frederick Douglass High School where a student accidentally shot himself with a gun he brought to school Friday.

Fayette County Schools officials have fired an employee who checked a high school student’s backpack but failed to find a loaded gun in it Wednesday.

The student was able to bring the gun into Frederick Douglass High School, “because the contracted security ambassador responsible for searching the student’s backpack did not adhere to the protocol in place,” said district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall.

District officials said that they were pleased that school staff found the gun hidden in the student’s backpack later in the day and that no one was hurt. However “the breakdown that led to a gun being brought into the school is unacceptable,” Deffendall said.

Beginning Thursday morning, district officials implemented heightened bag screening procedures and have reinforced the importance of thorough bag searches at all school entrances. Deffendall said officials are looking at more efficient and effective screening procedures.

Metal detectors were added at Frederick Douglass High School last spring, at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in October and will be implemented at Tates Creek High School this month, she said.

On Wednesday, the student with the gun did not enter the building through the walk-through metal detectors. He checked in after the day had started and came through the front entrance, where he was wanded using a hand-held metal detector, and his backpack was checked. Backpacks are not wanded or sent through metal detectors because they have metal on them, including zippers.

He then went about his school day until sometime in the afternoon, when he had an unrelated disciplinary issue in the hallway. At that time, members of the school administrative team searched the student’s backpack and found the gun.

The student, described only as a lower classman, has been charged with possession of a weapon on school property and possession of a stolen handgun. The student will face administrative consequences through the school district, Principal Lester Diaz said, and may also face legal consequences through the juvenile court system.

The district went through a bid process to select an external contractor to provide security ambassadors to assist with the implementation of metal detectors in middle and high schools. Two firms have been awarded work: Greene’s Investigation LLC at Frederick Douglass and Paul Laurence Dunbar high schools and Helping Hand LLC at Tates Creek High School. The contract amount is based on an hourly rate of $20 per hour, Deffendall said.

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