A Daniel Hand High School student brought an unloaded Airsoft gun to school Thursday morning, Principal Barbara Britton said in an email message to parents.
She said police were notified and that "at no time were any students in danger."
Madison School Superintendent Thomas Scarice, who was alerted to the incident early Thursday morning, said he could not provide detail about the specific incident since "it is now a police matter."
But he gave credit to school administrators and students for handling the incident quickly and appropriately.
"The reaction was swift due to the culture of the building," he said. "Thanks to the students and staff it was dealt with quickly." Scarice said, due to the way the incident was handled by students and staff, there was no need to put the school into lockdown, because students were never in danger.
"We're all about teaching and learning," he said. "But safety of our schools is always foremost. That is the highest priority."
An Airsoft gun is a hobby/toy gun designed to look like a real gun that can shoot BBs or pellets, according to the Hobbytron website:
For those who are new to airsoft, these guns shoot 6mm round pellets commonly known as "BBs." They travel at speeds much lower than real bullets and although a bit painful when hit by one of these pellets, they cannot kill someone nor cause heavy-bleeding injuries unlike real guns. Even though airsoft is considered a toy gun, safety precautions should still be taken into account when playing with these replicas ... most airsoft are the exact copies of the actual guns. Some manufacturers even use real mold of the originals in order to create the look, feel and even weight of their real-steel counterpart. Automatic Electric Guns can only cause welts. It is still painful however when the BB pellets hit the skin, since they travel at high speeds. That is why during "skirmishes," protective gears must be worn to avoid serious injuries, especially around the eyes.
The Hobbytron site also says there are three types of Airsoft guns, including Automatic Electric Guns, gas-powered, and spring powered. Britton's email message did not specify the type of Airsoft gun brought to school.
Britton said in the email message that "the incident was handled per our code of conduct."
The high school Code of Conduct says:
All students, staff, and visitors, even those who may have a legal permit to carry a weapon, are strictly prohibited from possessing, conveying, using or storing weapons or look-alike weapons on school property, at school-sponsored events, in or around school-provided transportation. (See also Dangerous Instrument, Deadly Weapon, and Firearm.) Reference Section I.O. in the Behavior / Infraction Charts.
Under Section I.O. in the Behavior / Infraction Charts it says:
*Possession of Weapon, Deadly Weapon, Dangerous Instrument, Firearm or Facsimile or Replica of Firearm:
1st and Subsequent Offenses:
- 10 days out-of-school suspension under the supervision of
his / her parent or guardian, pending expulsion hearing
- parent or guardian notification
- superintendent notification
- excluded from all co-curricular and extracurricular activities
concurrent with suspension
- mandatory expulsion, with administrative recommendation
to the Board of Education for 30-180 school days
- attend alternative educational program per Board policy and
the expulsion requirement
- excluded from all co-curricular and extracurricular activities
concurrent with expulsion and may be further excluded from any or all co-curricular and extracurricular activities beyond the academic expulsion period per action of Board of Education
- police referral
The Code of Conduct also defines "firearm" as
Firearm: As defined in 18 U.S.C. 921, means (1) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (2) the frame or receiver of any such weapons; (3) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer or (4) any destructive device. For purposes of this definition “destructive device” means any explosive, incendiary, or poisonous gas device, including a bomb, a grenade, a rocket having a propellant charge of more than 4 ounces, a missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than 1⁄4 ounce, a mine, or any other similar device;. or any weapon that will, or may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by explosive or other propellant, and which has a barrel with a bore of more than 1⁄2 inch in diameter. The term “destructive device” also includes any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device or any device from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. A “destructive device” does not include: an antique firearm, or any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon. (See also Dangerous Instrument, Deadly Weapon, and Weapon.)
Reference Section I.O. in the Behavior / Infraction Charts.
Here is the full text of Britton's message about the incident:
This morning it came to our attention that a student in school was in possession of an unloaded Airsoft gun.
At no time were any students in danger. The police were notified and the incident was handled per our Code of Conduct.
At other schools, Airsoft guns also creating issues
Students have been found bringing Airsoft guns to other schools around the country, likewise prompting reactions from officials.
In Ridgefield, CT, a student was arrested last month, after bringing an Airsoft-like weapon to school, without the trademark orange tip that identifies it as a toy gun, according to Ridgefield Patch:
On Thursday, September 27 at 2:30 pm, Ridgefield Police saw “what appeared to be a shotgun” emerge from the passenger side of a vehicle travelling within the Ridgefield High School parking lot, police reports state.
Police pulled over the vehicle and found that the gun was “an Airsoft-type weapon without an orange tip,” police said. The passenger who had allegedly brandished the gun was a 17 year-old male; he was brought to police headquarters and charged with breach of peace and brandishing a facsimile fire arm, according to police.
The youth was given juvenile summons to appear in court and was released to his parents.
Airsoft guns typically fire plastic BBs and are usually powered by battery or C02. Depending on their design, Airsoft guns can appear clearly toy-like with see-through plastic or may appear convincingly realistic. In accordance with federal law, all toy guns are required to be sold with orange tips, although these tips are sometimes removed after-market.
There have been other similar incidents nationwide:
- In Spokane, WA, two students brought Airsoft guns to schools and were "emergency expelled."
- In San Clemente, CA, a student who brought an Airsoft gun to a bus stop was disciplined after he pointed the gun at another boy.
- In Milford, NH, an elementary school student brought an Airsoft gun to school.
- In Vancouver, BC, a school was locked down after a student was spotted waving a gun around, which ended up being an Airsoft gun.
- In Bellevue, WA, a 10-year-old boy brought an Airsoft gun to school.
This story was edited on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 to include information about the police arresting and charging the student.