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Las Vegas elementary student found with handgun at school

A 9-year-old male student at Helen Smith Elementary was referred to social services Wednesday after bringing an unloaded handgun and ammunition to school, police said. It was the ninth reported firearm incident in the Clark County School District this school year.

School district police Capt. Roberto Morales said the student showed the handgun to another student in the morning. A third student overheard the discussion and reported it to a teacher, he said.

Officials found an unloaded .22-caliber gun in the student’s backpack, with bullets and an ammunition magazine, Morales said. No threats were made, he said.

Morales said the child was not arrested but was referred to social services at The Harbor, a county-run juvenile assessment center.

“(Child Protective Services) will be involved because we do believe the firearm came from home,” he said.

Morales said the fact that another student reported the incident to officials at the Las Vegas school at 7101 Pinedale Ave. shows the district’s campaign for youngsters and parents to “see something, say something” is working.

“Another student saw something and reported it immediately to a teacher,” Morales said. “The teacher immediately reported it to administration. They put the child and the backpack into a secure area and called us for a response.”

Expulsion required

The student will be expelled — which state law requires when a gun is brought onto school property — but will not be referred to a behavioral or alternative school, according to Assistant Superintendent Tammy Malich.

That’s because the district does not have an alternative school for elementary-aged students.

John “Jack” Martin, director of The Harbor, said he could not comment about the case. But he said that if a case of a child bringing a gun to school was referred to his staff members, they would try to find out where the child got the weapon and why he or she decided to bring it on campus. And the Harbor staff would recommend what services the child could receive to correct the behavior.

“Taking a 9-year-old to juvenile detention, I don’t think that would help them,” Martin said. “There are literally hundreds of things that could be going on, and we want to look at the most pressing. And we want to make sure we put guards in place to address those things.”

Smith Elementary Principal Robert Hinchliffe reminded parents in a letter that they can face charges if they allow their children unsupervised access to their weapons.

“This situation serves as a reminder for all of our families to know that no weapons, including toy weapons, are permitted anywhere on our school campus, as we take the personal safety of each and every student very seriously,” the letter stated.

Parents could face charges

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson’s office has brought charges against parents when a child obtained a gun and fired it, including a case last year when the parents of 4-year-old Bradley Whitis were charged with child abuse after he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But, Wolfson said, he couldn’t recall an instance when his office has charged parents for a child bringing a gun to school.

Bringing charges in such a situation would depend on the circumstances, such as where the child acquired the weapon and the accessibility of that weapon, he said.

That will be determined when investigators “follow up along the chain of evidence to determine whether or not there is responsibility on the part of the adult because that child got the weapon from somewhere,” Wolfson said. He added that his office would consider charges if the police investigation pointed to parental neglect.

The most recent previous incident involving a gun on campus occurred Tuesday, when a Del Sol High School student brought a BB gun to school. School district police have been involved in six other seizures of loaded weapons on or near campuses during the school year, which began on Aug. 13. One involved a family member who allegedly pulled a gun to break up a fight outside Chaparral High School in Las Vegas, and the rest involved students.

Also, North Las Vegas police are investigating the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old student at Canyon Springs High after school on Sept. 11.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Michael Scott Davidson and Mike Shoro contributed to this report.

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