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COOLEEMEE, N.C. (AP) -- The mother of a Cooleemee Elementary School student has been charged after a teacher found a loaded handgun in the child's backpack.

Cooleemee Police Chief Bobby West says a teacher found the gun Monday in the child's backpack. Police confiscated a .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun with three bullets in it.

Police charged the boy's mother with misdemeanor failure to store a firearm to protect a minor. The boy was referred to juvenile court authorities. According to school policy, he also faces a suspension.

West says he believes the boy put the gun in his backpack because he was curious about it.

The Department of Social Services is involved in the case, and the boy is no longer staying at his home.

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