UPDATED WITH REACTION:
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Parents, teachers and school administrative staff Friday reacted to Thursday's arrest of a 12-year old boy who police believe brought a loaded 22-caliber handgun to school. Region 8 News spoke with several parents Friday as they dropped their children off at the school. Most said they were proud of how the school district handled the case, but some wanted to be informed more promptly; however, they also understood why the district handled the situation quietly.
"I have a daughter that graduated last year and one in the 9th grade here at Valley View and I've always told them don't be afraid to tell the teacher. Tell me if you need to and I'll contact the school," said Barbara Brown.
Brown said she learned about the investigation Thursday night through a breaking news report on Region 8 News at 6.
"I felt pretty confident because I think the school is real into the safety of our children. I think it was handled appropriately and when they found out, they took the steps necessary to handle it," said Brown. "I didn't feel like she was threatened at all and she wasn't really scared or worried about it when she came home."
Under Arkansas State law, the 6th grade student has to be placed in police custody and cannot be released back to his parents on bond. Arkansas law also states the student will be expelled from school for one calendar year, but that will not be determined until the Valley View School Board meets in the next week or so.
Superintendent Radius Baker told Region 8 News Friday morning he wanted students to realize the consequences for similar actions. Baker said gun crimes stay on a person's record. He also wanted parents to realize their responsibilities.
"Any time a parent has a weapon in their home, whether it's loaded or unloaded, they need to take the responsibility to lock that weapon up," said Baker.
Baker said he was proud of Junior High Principal Barry Jones, School Resource Officer Warner Calhoun and the student who came forward with the information.
"When he got back to school the following day, he immediately went to the principal, Mr. Jones, and reported that this individual had showed him a handgun while getting off the school bus," said Baker. "The student was in the middle of a bunch of kids (in an assembly). Rather than to scare kids and scare him, not knowing what reaction would take place, they kept an eye on him."
"The assembly was dismissed. They got the student out of the line, escorted him to the principal's office and therefore questioned him," said Baker.
Baker said the 6th grade suspect never made a threat to other students.
"We did everything, in my opinion, correctly. We followed the guidelines and we have a crisis plan that we also enacted. We did everything that we were supposed to do."
Baker said the school district has a crisis plan and that includes a call system. If the district believes the situation requires immediate contact with parents, emergency calls would have been made.
"Had it been a situation where we would have had a lockdown or something like that, every parent would have been notified on our calling system. It would have been an emergency call," said Baker. "In my opinion, we did exactly what we needed to do. Had it been a different situation where we felt like there was a threat to any child in this system, we would have had a lockdown. Our phone message would have gone out to every parent in the community."
"He had freely admitted to what had happened. He was very cooperative with us and authorities were contacted, parents were contacted and we moved forward," said Jones. "You immediately always take a threat seriously. Any information we received, we take it seriously and investigate it. It's not ours to determine what is hearsay, but to actually investigate it."
Baker said students knew about the handgun throughout the day Wednesday. Friday morning, Jones held a special assembly to let students know the importance of coming forward.
"We didn't have any information until the student had come to us. As soon as we received that information, we immediately responded to it, went to the assembly, isolated the student and got him to our office where we were able to get the weapon," said Calhoun. "With so many school shootings in the last few years, it's very important that we be here to protect our children."
"We are always concerned about our kids. These are our kids. We become very close to them, working with them. Being in the hallway as school resource officers, we get close with them and they become our children," said Calhoun.
Jones has been in similar situations involving a student with weapons in other school systems.
"It takes a community effort, not just a school effort. It takes teachers being aware. It takes students being aware. It takes parents being aware," said Jones.
"Anytime they feel threatened or they feel insecure, then they should report that to an administrator, a teacher or anyone that they trust," said Baker.