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Gun found in student's book bag on first day of school in Lancaster County

The student did not point the pistol at anyone or make any threats, according to the sheriff's office.

LANCASTER, S.C. — School administrators at South Middle School in Lancaster, South Carolina, found a gun in a student's book bag on Monday, the Lancaster County School District confirmed. The discovery came on the first day back to school.

After receiving a tip from a person who saw the pistol, the student possessing the weapon was taken out of class and detained, according to a news release from the district. Then the pistol was taken into the possession of officials. 

The Lancaster County Sheriff's Office confirmed the student had a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol with a loaded magazine. A round was not chambered. 

One parent told WCNC Charlotte's Indira Eskieva she won't allow her daughter to return to school following the discovery of the weapon. 

“This was the first day of school and they have already dropped a ball, and that’s not a ball I’m going to let them drop again," Ginger Petty said.

Brandi Chappell did send her son back to school Tuesday but said she was afraid to do so.

“It’s really terrifying," Chappell explained. "Today, taking my kids to school was scary. It was hard knowing that it was at my child’s school."

The student accused of possessing the weapon did not point the pistol at anyone or make any threats, according to the sheriff's office.  District leaders say a group of students heard about the gun and reported the student to administrators. 

"This was a rocky start to the school year at South Middle,” Sheriff Barry Faile said. "We are investigating where this young man got the pistol and why he brought it to school.  I cannot stress enough ‘if you see something, say something,' and my hat is off to the person who quickly reported this incident.”     

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The district said law enforcement has opened up a criminal investigation into the incident, and the student was suspended from school as any "student caught in possession of a firearm is subject to a full calendar year expulsion from school" under South Carolina state law.

Petty worries about what might have happened had the student not been reported, and after losing one child to a genetic disorder, she can’t bear the thought of losing another.

Credit: Ginger Petty

“If you’re not going to turn the metal detectors on, then you need to give every teacher and every student... bulletproof vests," Petty said, "Because I shouldn’t have to worry about that.”

Petty said metal detectors should be used in schools every day. The school district said it’s purchasing more metal detectors this year but the searches are random.

“One of the things we want parents to know is to [operate] metal detectors at every door is a huge endeavor because it takes a team of about 2-to-3 people to properly run a metal detector," Bryan Vaughn with the Lancaster County School District said. 

Vaughn said even one gun is too many, and the district is constantly working to improve its safety program, including using clear backpacks at major school events and purchasing more metal detectors.

The 8th grader, who has not been named publically, will be charged with carrying a weapon on school property, though officials say other charges are possible. They will be charged through the Department of Juvenile Justice.

The student will appear before a Lancaster County Family Court judge later this week. 

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