The Ottumwa Courier

Education

October 26, 2013

Child suspended for bringing an unloaded BB gun to Ottumwa school

OTTUMWA — Whether it’s a BB gun or a “real” gun, whether it’s loaded or unloaded and whether or not a teacher even sees it, bringing a gun to school will get a kid kicked out.

A child at James Elementary School, staff discovered, brought a weapon to school: A BB pistol.

“Although it was a BB gun, we don’t minimize that fact,” said Davis Eidahl, superintendent of the Ottumwa school district. “We take this infraction very seriously.”

Then why, a concerned parent asked the Courier, weren’t James Elementary School parents told about the infraction when it occurred? One student’s parents said they heard about it from Facebook on Thursday evening. A parent called them on Thursday and suggested that the weapon had been brought to school on Monday. Worse, the mom said, the school didn’t officially send word to parents (and the media) until Friday.

“We never actually saw the BB gun,” said Eidahl. “We learned about it on Thursday afternoon. We spent the rest of the day investigating.”

Until they knew what, if anything, had happened, they’d chase down leads. Eidahl decided if it was a choice between providing parents with inaccurate information on Thursday or accurate information Friday morning, he would choose accuracy.

The evidence that had been gathered was submitted to the Ottumwa Board of Education on Thursday night.

As children began to talk about the interviews conducted by teachers Thursday, word went out on Facebook. Eidahl said social media is so fast, and requires so little confirmation of fact, that events are posted before the truth can be determined.

“As a school district, we love social media, and we use it; the press release on this incident was released using social media. Unfortunately, however, social media easily jumps ahead, often with inaccurate information. It’s a great tool — when used correctly,” he said.

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