TWIN FALLS -- Three students are in custody after one fired a handgun inside a Robert Stuart Middle School classroom Friday afternoon. No one was injured and police are calling the incident an “accidental discharge.”
A 14-year-old boy had two guns inside his bag, said Joshua Palmer, spokesman for the Twin Falls Police Department. One gun was reported stolen and the other had an altered serial number.
After questioning the 14-year-old and others, two more students were arrested, Palmer said.
All three face juvenile charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, altering the serial number on a firearm, possessing a firearm on school property and unlawful discharge of a firearm. They are being held at the Snake River Juvenile Detention Center.
Palmer said it’s possible an adult could be charged if one gave the guns to the students or knew they would be brought to the school.
“The student was in an advisory class when the gun fired into a table leg at approximately 12:45 p.m.,” Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said in a statement. “The teacher in the classroom immediately called the principal and school resource officer who reported to the classroom within seconds of the incident. The student immediately turned the gun over to the principal, and other law enforcement officials reported to the building.”
It was unclear how the gun was fired. Palmer said the student was either setting the bag down or reaching into the bag when it fired. The gun was not pointed at anyone and the student was not “displaying” it, Palmer said.
The school immediately called the parents of students who were in the class when the gun fired, Craner said. Other parents were notified about 2 p.m. by an automated phone message from Superintendent Wiley Dobbs.
The area of the school where the gun was fired was evacuated, but police directed the school not to lock down, Craner said.
“(Police) determined that the situation had been contained and there was no continuing threat to students,” she said.
Many of the school’s 1,000 students were off campus participating in a community clean-up project. Others who were at the school had no idea anything was awry.
“Parents may have known before some students,” Craner said in a phone interview. “We do have a safety protocol and it was followed. All of the safety procedures worked very well.”
It’s the first time a gun has been fired in an Idaho school since 2013 when an Idaho State University professor in Pocatello accidentally shot himself in the foot during a lecture, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun research group.
The after-school routine at Robert Stuart seemed uninterrupted about 3:15 p.m. as parents lined the roadway and parking lot to pick up students. But parents expressed concern about what happened even after receiving the message that the situation was under control.
“You’re just never sure and you’re worried,” Arturo Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez left work early Friday to pick up his daughter, who typically takes the bus home from school.
The first thoughts that went through Martha Olszynski’s mind were “Columbine and Sandy Hook,” said the mother of an eighth-grade daughter. Olszynski always picks up her daughter after school, but she went to the school earlier than normal Friday immediately after receiving the automated message.
“You just have a million questions,” she said.
The district has a strict no-gun policy and only school resource officers are allowed to carry guns, Craner said.
“While we regret that one of our students chose this action, we are relieved and heartened that our staff and law enforcement worked together to a safe conclusion,” Craner said in the statement.
No one with institutional knowledge can remember a gun being fired at a Twin Falls school, Palmer said. He said there have been instances of a student bringing a gun to school in the past, but officials couldn’t recall one ever firing in a Twin Falls school.
Police did not release the names of the arrested students.
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said he cannot comment on juvenile cases, but said nothing will happen before Monday and that they will not be arraigned in adult court.