Gun at school incident concerns parents
Two boys were expelled, but aftershocks of their behavior are still rippling through the community.
The knowledge that two fourth-grade boys concealed a gun in a backpack and brought it to an after-school party at Meyers Elementary School shocked parents and left many questioning the safety of their children.
On Wednesday night, 50 to 60 parents crowded into the school’s library hoping to find answers.
“This really scared me as a parent,” said Marie Krueger. “Do these parents have any more guns in their home?” she asked. “Could these kids get it and come back here. Those questions build up in my mind and fill me with fear.”
Krueger wasn’t the only one. Three El Dorado County Sheriff’s officers were present to answer questions, but for some of the questions there were no perfect answers.
Many parents expressed anger and called for action. Suggestions of periodic backpack checks were bandied about. Others wanted to know how seriously the two 9-year-olds would be punished and if their parents were liable. Even though the fear of guns falling into children’s hands was palpable, almost a third of the parents present admitted to owning firearms.
The boys are facing possible felony charges for bringing the Smith and Wesson .357-caliber revolver on school property and stealing the gun from one of their parents.
Sgt. Randy Peshon explained the parents had the “reasonable expectation that the gun was inaccessible to the boys,” therefore, they were not criminally negligent. The boys didn’t get the ammunition that was locked up separately from the weapon, he added.
“You have to remember that we’re talking about 9-year-olds,” Peshon reminded the crowd. “Yes, we want to protect the community first and foremost, but we also want to turn these kids around.”
Peshon opened the meeting with a statement on the investigation. He explained that investigators learned that there was group of about seven boys who began to get together on the playground. Peshon said the boys started referring themselves to as a gang. He stressed that despite the boys’ perception, the group in no way fit the criminal definition of the term “gang.”
The boys reportedly talked about putting one child they didn’t like on a “list.” Peshon said they have not determined if the boys even realized the implications of their discussions or if they gun was meant to be part of an intimidation.
“Among the boys there wasn’t even a real consensus of who they were talking about,” Peshon said.
School librarian Gay Horton, who sponsored the party, said the incident was an aberration for the small community school. She said the majority of the 165 kids who attended the party had a wonderful time and were well chaperoned by the 25 adults.
“We can’t focus on the event where this happened,” she said. “This could have happened anytime, anywhere. It could have been at assemblies or the bus stop. Just because two individuals broke the law we can’t end (after-school functions).”
Despite questions on how investigators learned of the gun, Peshon said that would remain confidential. Lt. Fred Kollar told parents that at least 15 kids at the dance knew about the gun and told no one.
Meyers Principal Karen Tinlin said she didn’t want to point fingers, but rather move on from here.
“I don’t want to be functioning like an inner-city school,” she said. “These are kids who were born and raised in Tahoe. We are talking about parents who volunteered at school, and helped their kids with their homework. These are good people and good parents. They were doing all the right things. This could have happened to anyone of us. This could have happened to me, and I believe I’m doing all the right things.”
Denise Perucci said she hopes the discussion doesn’t end.
“We feel that we’re safe in our little community, but it’s happening everywhere. We are not immune,” said Perucci, a mother of four. Her two youngest are still attending Meyers. “We need more community meetings to address this issue.”
School officials urged parents to attend the next PTA meeting to continue the discussion and possibly form action groups.
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