10/17/13 — District will eye toy gun incident

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District will eye toy gun incident

By John Joyce
Published in News on October 17, 2013 1:46 PM

No laws were broken and no school district policies violated in last Friday's "enrichment lesson" involving a staff member and a toy gun at Eastern Wayne Middle School, a spokesman for the Wayne County Public Schools said Wednesday.

The investigation, however, is ongoing.

Parents raised questions after the incident, asking how and why a school staff member would be allowed to introduce a toy gun into a lesson on citizenship.

"We will be looking at the entire process," Ken Derksen said.

The investigation is being led by Principal Catherine Fulcher -- out since Tuesday on a previously scheduled medical leave -- and her administrative staff. A school district human resources representative also will be involved.

At the conclusion of the investigation, any disciplinary actions will be decided by human resources and school Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor, Derksen said.

"The entire school shares the burden equally," he said.

A staff member donned a ski mask and carried a toy gun into each of the sixth-grade classes at the school Friday. The man pretended to steal an item and then left the class.

This occurred in all six classes during the morning and was meant to be a lesson in observation and good citizenship, according to a letter sent by the school to parents, who said some of their children were traumatized by the incident.

"The principal was not informed until after school on Friday, when a staff member told her about it," Derksen said.

The ski mask and toy gun were an unauthorized addition to the lesson plan, the district said. The enrichment lesson originally called for an adult staff member to simply walk in and take an item while the teacher was not looking.

Not part of any particular curriculum, the exercise was meant to be a teaching tool to enhance student development, Derksen said.

Derksen said the change, although lacking sensitivity and judgment, did not cause much alarm and did not pose a threat to school security.

"The teachers rolled with the change. No alarm was sounded because the information was passed quickly that the change happened," he said.

For anyone to bring a gun or weapon of any kind onto a school campus is a crime, but the statute does not apply to replicas. A school district policy prohibits students from bringing toy guns to school, an offense punishable by a 365-day suspension.

No such rule applies to faculty or staff.

"The district feels that this is an isolated incident and can be viewed as a lesson on using good judgment," Derksen said.

The district cited personnel issues and privacy laws for not releasing the identity of the staff member and particulars regarding the investigation. Unless criminal charges are filed, which Derksen said was unlikely, the outcome of the investigation, including any disciplinary actions, will not be made public.