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Durham middle schooler suspended 1 year for bringing gun to campus

By Jelia Hepner

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    NORTH CAROLINA (WRAL) — A student has been suspended for a year and could face additional consequences after authorities found a gun in his backpack on school grounds Wednesday morning.

The discovery occurred at Sherwood Githens Middle School in Durham through a tip. The information was given by students who said a classmate brought an airsoft gun inside the school, but through administrators’ investigation, they found a handgun in the student’s bookbag instead.

Upon discovery, the weapon was immediately taken away.

Once the school was dismissed, parents received a voicemail message about the incident that reads in part:

We immediately confiscated the weapon and law enforcement is actively investigating. Thanks to reliable information, we were able to bring this to a safe conclusion.”

Extra counselors will be on hand at the school Thursday to help students worried about gun violence and school threats.

“I wasn’t surprised at first because it is becoming more and more common,” said a Sherwood Githens Middle School parent.

One question at the center of the situation is why the district waited until the school was dismissed to notify parents.

“It’s about making sure students feel safe and protected, and they feel safe and protected when their families have the information first,” said Chip Sudderth, Durham Public Schools.

District leaders point out that students have been leading this district’s charge in addressing gun violence.

Just this year, students at Hillside High School held a play called State of Urgency on the dangers of gun violence. In February, a 17-year-old was killed, and a 15-year-old was hurt in a shooting close to the school.

“If we have weapons around the house, we need to have conversations about what that means,” said the parent.

The school’s principal, Dr. Sheldon Lanier, credits reliable information saying they brought in the student and kept everyone safe on campus.

“I am eternally grateful for the student who saw something and said something,” Lanier said. “Also, for our school leaders who immediately responded and kept our students and staff safe, and for law enforcement for their prompt response.”

Along with the suspension, the student will face additional consequences.

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