A school resource officer at Whittemore Park Middle School discovered a handgun in the belongings of a student Wednesday morning, but Principal Quintina Livingston assured parents shortly thereafter that staff and students were safe.
In a statement posted on the school's social media page Wednesday night, Livingston let parents know that after a review of the security check-in process, it was revealed that all students walked through the metal detectors, and all bags were searched.
The child who possessed the gun, she said, went through one of the bag search checkpoints and their bag manually searched, but the gun was not detected.
"However, a thorough search was not conducted as the weapon, which was concealed inside of the book bag, was not discovered," Livingston's post said. "We are reinforcing campus protocols with our staff to ensure that the administration's expectations pertaining to student screening procedures are strictly followed.
Many parents in the district wondered publicly on social media how the gun got through the security at the school.
HCS spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said that the scope and percentage of students searched is a campus-level decision.
"At minimum, the amount of students searched must be sufficient to reasonably deter and detect the introduction of contraband into our schools," Bourcier said.
In a school safety safety town hall last year, school district officials said that not every single student goes through a metal detector, simply because of the manpower that would take each morning.
Bourcier said that a backpack would be searched rather than run through a detector.
“An item such as this would be personally searched as opposed to being run through a metal detector as the hardware located on backpacks and purses sets off the detectors, which again is why they are manually searched,” Bourcier said.
She said nothing prohibits the school administration from implementing more stringent standards as circumstances dictate.
Bourcier said that some of the metal detector screening and student search standards currently in place include screening stations at each student entry point (with screening stations strategically located to facilitate searches), and that all middle and high schools have issued metal detectors that “must be used at each school every day.”
School personnel are also posted near entry points to monitor student movement and prevent students from circumventing the screening process, Bourcier said.
Parents of students at WPMS in Conway received an email from Livingston that said around 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday another student noticed a student with a gun in the bathroom and immediately notified a staff member.
After being detained and searched by the SRO, the handgun was discovered and confiscated by Conway Police Department.
"Administrative and law enforcement investigations continue in an effort to determine a number of factors associated with this situation," Livingston said in her letter, which was also posted to the school's public social media page.
According to a Conway Police Department report, the 13-year-old student was transported to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia.
Livingston commended the student for immediately alerting staff to the issue.
"It is very important for all students to know that if they see something or hear something, to definitely come forward and share that information with another adult or contact law enforcement," Livingston said.
Bourcier said the case is an ongoing investigation by both local law enforcement and the school administration.
"We have several questions as well and hopefully will get more information as the investigation unfolds," Bourcier said.
My Horry News will update this story as the investigation continues.