A 9-year-old boy who brought a loaded gun to York Road Elementary School to show to friends Tuesday has been suspended indefinitely, school and police officials said.
The fourth-grader brought the 9mm handgun to the Rock Hill school on West Main Street in his backpack, according to police.
He showed it to other students in a school restroom and took the bullets out of the gun, said Lt. Steve Parker, who oversees school resource officers for the Rock Hill Police Department.
Students who saw the gun told their teachers, who then told the principal, reports state. Principal Patrick Robinson confiscated the backpack with the gun in it and called authorities, who then took the child into custody. All of this happened around 9:30 a.m.
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"They responded swiftly and appropriately," Parker said.
Rock Hill schools Superintendent Lynn Moody said officials are trying to figure out if any threats were made.
Police do not know who owns the gun. When they find out, charges might be filed against the owner.
Police and school officials are continuing to investigate.
The child has been taken into the custody of the Department of Social Services, Solicitor Kevin Brackett said. DSS will conduct an evaluation to determine whether he is competent to be charged with a crime. To be found competent, he must understand the difference between right and wrong, Brackett said.
If the boy is charged and found guilty, it will be up to a judge to set the consequences.
"Children are treated differently ... because you're looking at not so much punishment, but at rehabilitation, turning them around and making them change their behavior," Brackett said.
'Reflection of communities'
Moody said the incident Tuesday does not mean schools are unsafe.
"We have tried to be as proactive as we can," she said. "But schools are a reflection of communities and things that are going on and unfortunately there are guns in Rock Hill. And so to think that we would never have a weapon at school would just be wishful thinking."
The school district's policy states any student who brings a firearm to school will be expelled for at least one year.
Moody said she will have to examine this child's case, especially because he is so young.
Tuesday was not the first time a student in Rock Hill brought a weapon to school.
Authorities have responded to more than 60 incidents of weapons violations at schools since August 2005, according to statistics from the police department. Of those, nine involved guns, five of which were BB or pellet guns.
Those numbers don't include incidents at Rock Hill High, Castle Heights Middle, or Lesslie, Independence and India Hook elementary schools, which are outside of city limits.
Parents were notified of the incident at York Road through an automated phone call. Classes went on as usual Tuesday and extra counselors were brought in to talk to students, who were urged to report any strange behavior to their teachers.
Kelly Sumwalt, a parent of a York Road fifth-grader and a member of the school improvement council, said it's sad the child had access to the gun in the first place.
"I feel 100 percent safe at York Road," she said. "My concern is, are the parents paying attention to their children and the well being of their children in today's world? Are we so busy that we are not paying attention to what's happening all around us and therefore taking the necessary precautions with our own children?"