Student brings gun to school

Alexis Barker, News Edtior

Newcastle High School was in an extended lockdown on March 15 after the school was informed that a student had brought a gun to school. There have been no injuries reported as a result of the incident, but after the school’s administration confirmed that a gun had been brought to school both Newcastle Middle School and the high school remained locked down while law enforcement investigated the situation. 


“It is no secret; we actually recovered a gun on school grounds. I don’t know if we know the full intent, but the nice thing is everyone is alive.,” Weston County School District #1 Superintendent Brad LaCroix told the News Letter Journal. 


According to LaCroix, the lockdown began after a student came forward with information about another student having a gun in the high school on Wednesday morning.

“Thank goodness they did,” he said.


Principal Bryce Hoffman echoed LaCroix’s appreciation for the student who reported the weapon


“Today, the safety of students and staff was put at risk when a student brought a weapon to our building,” Hoffman said in a letter sent to families after the lockdown. “Thankfully for all of us, one student who found out about the weapon did the one thing we hope all our students will do when they hear or see suspicious or concerning activity: they reported it.” 


The principal informed families that law enforcement was notified as soon as the administration was made aware of the situation, and action was taken immediately to ensure the safety of students and staff. 


LaCroix added that the most positive thing that happened is that a student alerted school authorities before someone was hurt.


“We all think that we are in a small town, in a community that has a good understanding of guns and gun usage. However, when it comes to a gun on school grounds with harmful intent, we have to rethink the safety of everyone,” he reasoned. 


LaCroix credited law enforcement with a quick response time, and said he was comfortable with the information they provided to administration as the incident unfolded. He explained that the lockdown took some time because there were initially concerns that more than one gun might have been involved. After conducting a sweep, however, law enforcement located only one gun.


“There are things they are trained to think about that we are not. It was a very tense situation for everyone involved,” LaCroix said. 


Newcastle Police Department Chief Chuck Bowles told the News Letter Journal that two police officers and one Weston County Sheriff’s Office deputy were on scene right away, and that law enforcement was able to make sure there were no additional threats to the students and staff. He said he felt the response of local law enforcement was good, but indicated that his department would review the response to learn what they could from the incident.

“It was a challenging process for all, but everyone worked together throughout today’s events to do the best they could, while remaining focused on our top priority of student and staff safety, while also working to keep families informed with relevant information,” Hoffman said in the letter, noting that the district will also be evaluating steps that can be taken in the future in the event of another such incident.

“Right now, we are going back and reviewing our processes,” LaCroix confirmed.  


“We will continue to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst, and continue to strive to make sure that everyone that enters our school feels safe, supported and cared for,” Hoffman said in his letter.


As students and staff move on from the incident, LaCroix said, the staff will spend some time reflecting on and reviewing the process undertaken during the lockdown and dissecting how the incident was handled.


They will also begin the healing process.


“Students and staff will likely process today’s events in their own individual way, but please take some time tonight to talk to your child. Tell them you love them and ask them what they need,” Hoffman said in the letter. “Counselors are available at all three buildings in the district to visit with students and provide support.” 


Deputy Weston County Attorney Jeani Stone refused to provide any information on whether or not charges have or will be brought against the student, and also indicated she would not reveal if the suspect is being detained or if any bonds have been set by the court.


“I am not able to provide any information due to confidentiality rules as set out by state law,” she told the News Letter Journal in response to an emailed request for that information.


Chief Bowles did report, however, that the juvenile suspect is currently being detained at the Campbell County Juvenile Detention Facility and that he believes the student is being charged with crimes, although he noted that he was not able to divulge the actual charges.


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