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Boy arrested after bringing gun to school

A 13-year-old student who brought a handgun to Oak Harbor Middle School was arrested by police in a classroom Monday morning, according to Oak Harbor Police Capt. Rick Wallace.

Police found a .40-caliber pistol in the boy’s backpack, Wallace said, and a single bullet in his pocket.

The boy was expelled from school that morning, according to a letter officials sent home to parents. Joyce Swanson, principal of the middle school, said state law mandates expulsion for a student who brings a gun to school.

Swanson said another student saw the weapon and immediately told the assistant principal. School officials and police officers went to the boy’s classroom together, Wallace said.

“One of the really positive things about this is that the student reported it,” Swanson said. “That’s really critical in a school setting. The students will pretty much always have the information before we do. They’re the eyes and ears of the school.”

Wallace said the gun, which came from the student’s home, was never pointed or used to threaten anyone. The boy told police that he brought the gun to school because he had “concerns for his safety” and “felt threatened” by other students, Wallace said.

Investigators are looking to see if there was any prior bullying or harassment directed at the student, but Wallace said they haven’t found any evidence of that yet. Swanson agreed that “nothing stands out” in regard to bullying directed at the student.

Also, Wallace said police are investigating the possibility that the boy “made threats to other students in the last week or so.”

The student was arrested on suspicion of bringing a weapon onto school grounds, which is a gross misdemeanor offense. But the boy could face additional charges, Wallace said, if investigators find he did make previous threats against other kids.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said, “and so is the school district.”

Swanson said the expulsion lasts for one calendar year and the student can appeal, though state law would forbid the particular school from re-admitting the student.

Wallace said this is the first case in Oak Harbor he’s aware of in which a student brought an actual firearm to school. He said students have been caught with paintball and BB guns in the past, but nothing as serious as this.

“It’s very scary to have any weapon at school,” Swanson said, “but particularly a gun.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-1166.

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