Boy arrested after handgun brought to middle school in Whitecourt

Police in a northwestern Alberta town are investigating after a youth brought a gun to a middle school on Tuesday, and the school division is also launching its own look into what happened.

Whitecourt RCMP were called around 12:30 p.m. to Percy Baxter School, where a student was reportedly seen holding a loaded magazine.

Police said school staff searched the boy’s backpack and found a handgun. RCMP said it was not loaded and the magazine was not on the boy at the time.

No one was injured and RCMP said no threats were made to the school or any students. The school board alerted parents to the incident, police said.

Northern Gateway Public Schools said a shelter in place order was in effect at Percy Baxter. A notice posted on the school division’s website said all students were safe and communication would be shared with parents.

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Superintendent Kevin Bird told Global News the gun was confiscated and staff quickly determined there was no risk to students or staff.

He said he feels feel fortunate there was no tragedy.

“In our world this is about as big as it gets,” Bird said, adding a gun being brought to school is serious no matter what.

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He said a shelter in place was active from when the gun was discovered until the end of the school day, when class was let out and students were allowed to go home as they normally would with no extra precautions.

Bird said there was no need for a more serious hold and secure or lockdown response. Why the student brought a gun to school is still under investigation, Bird said.

Some parents came to pick up their kids once a notice was sent out, but he said for the most part, classes carried on as normal.

Bird said there are several lessons to come from the situation: parents should make sure their kid’s school has their most current contact information, so they can be easily reached.

Bird, who said he is also a gun owner, said Tuesday’s incident is a good reminder for parents to make sure their firearms are properly stored and their kids don’t know the code to the safe or where the key is. He would also advice parents to go a step further and make sure their guns have trigger locks.

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The youth was arrested and the investigation is ongoing, RCMP said. As of Tuesday afternoon, no charges had been laid.

Bird said the student will not return to school Wednesday — or anytime soon — but it’s too early to say if they will be expelled.

A Violence Threat Risk Assessment will now be carried out, he said, adding it is one of the best systems in the world for dealing with situations this.

“The goal of the Violence/Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) process is to ensure that every incident of youth violence in our communities is addressed. VTRA is early intervention, which is quite possibly prevention,” the Northern Gateway Public Schools website says.

“As a Division, and in cooperation with other local school divisions, government, RCMP and community partners, NGPS administrators and leadership staff have completed intensive safety training through the North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response.”

The division said it has developed a prevention and intervention protocol to respond to situations in which students may be posing a threat to themselves or others.

“As always, our goal is to keep our students and schools safe and respond to threats in a proactive and coordinated manner that provides for a healthy and caring learning environment.”

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Bird said they are gathering information and it will take about two weeks before a decision on any long-term disciplinary action is made, adding they always try to make decisions that are in the best interest of the student’s success.

Because the suspect is underage and protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, no other details are being released by RCMP.

Whitecourt is about 160 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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