NEW CANEY, TX – New Caney ISD officials held an emergency meeting of White Oak Middle School parents Thursday night in the wake of an earlier announcement that a seventh-grader had a loaded gun on campus. It was the second firearm confiscated from a New Caney ISD student during the current school year.
The 13-year-old, who cannot be legally identified because of his age, took the gun from his home, and rode the school bus to the campus. The armed student went to classes like on any other school day, until 11:20 when another student, who Superintendent Kenn Franklin is calling a “hero,” saw the gun and notified a teacher.
Franklin says three other students already knew about the gun, but remained silent, which is an issue district officials plan to address with students in a Friday morning assembly.
The 13-year-old was arrested and charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon in a place where weapons are prohibited.
When asked about the legalities of leaving the loaded gun accessible to the student in the home, NCISD Police Chief Troy Wootton said the investigation was ongoing and others could face charges. Officials also said Child Protective Services would be notified of the incident.
Police News reporter Jamie Nash covering the meeting reported 100 parents attended the Thursday night meeting after they were notified of the firearm incident through handouts, texts, phone calls and emails. Attendees showed a wide range of reactions as they asked questions and voiced concerns until officials ended the session two hours later.
NCISD representatives participating in the lengthy question and answer session were Franklin, Wootton, Assistant Superintendent Morris Fuselier, WOMS Principal Paula Burk, and Kelley Mattlage, NCISD director of communications and community relations.
A microphone was passed around to parents who had questions or comments, as officials tried to reassure them plans were already in place to address the issue on several levels.
One woman said her son had asked the day before to be home schooled because of fighting earlier in the week. Wootton acknowledged there had been an assault, but said it was handled according to their policies which involves issuing citations for minor mutual combat and arresting those who commit a violent act.
One parent asked if the armed student took the gun to school because someone was picking on him and Franklin said he personally asked the child that question. The answer was ‘no,’ he said.
Questions were raised about whether any recent problems between students were racially motivated, but officials said the students involved in the fights were the same ethnicity.
Parents were told a district police officer would be assigned to the campus full-time, temporarily, and some asked why there was not an officer on campus at all times. NCISD has only four school district police officers whose time is divided between all of the campuses.
Franklin and Fuselier assured parents the number of officers would be addressed in the next budget cycle, particular since a second high school is scheduled to open in the fall.
Franklin also said concealment would be seriously examined, with possible remedies including clear or mesh backpacks or more drastic measures such as uniforms and banning purses and jackets. He said the method worked well at a larger district where he was previously employed.
But at least one parent objected to that potential solution.
Kassandra McCray likened the idea to making the school into “a prison.” McCray has a seventh-grade daughter at WOMS, a child who graduated from New Caney High School and a son in the fifth grade at another NCISD campus.
McCray was among the parents who signed up Thursday night for a committee the district is now forming to discuss how to prevent such incidents.