By: John Cousins
A primary school boy has used a replica gun to intimidate children at Tauranga’s Bellevue School.
School principal Dave Bell said the student brought the replica to school on Tuesday concealed in his clothing, showed it to other students and intimidated them with it.
The Bay of Plenty Times was alerted to the ”serious incident” by a concerned father, who cannot be named for legal reasons. He said the children were disturbed because the gun looked so real.
Mr Bell confirmed the school practised its lockdown procedure on Thursday and then postponed the school disco on Thursday night.
He said the student with the gun was due to go home at lunchtime on Tuesday and had encouraged another student to leave the school grounds after the lunch break.
”There was no evidence to suggest coercion,” Mr Bell said.
Senior Sergeant Mark Pakes of Tauranga Police said during the process of responding to a report that children had truanted from the school, it was established that one of the students had been carrying what looked like a firearm.
Police established that it was a replica pistol that worked as a cigarette lighter.
”The item was seized and his been destroyed.”
Mr Pakes said police were working closely with the school, the student involved and his family.
The father said he did not find out his son was directly involved until Wednesday afternoon, a day after the incident when he responded to a message left on his phone from the school.
“It is wrong to have a kid bring something that even looks like a firearm to school.”
The father showed the Bay of Plenty Times a copy of a statement his son made to authorities. It said: “Yesterday [child A] was chasing me and [child B] and [child C] before lunch. We were in the photocopy room, [child A] locked the door, he said we are going to rush you. [Child A] showed me a gun, I did not know if it was real or fake. At lunch, he jumped at me and fell over and got angry at me.”
The school was unaware of the gun until a meeting later on Tuesday afternoon between the student that left school with the boy who had the pistol, the student’s mother, Mr Bell and the police.
The father said he spoke to the head of the Board of Trustees on Wednesday after learning what had happened and being told the school was “going through a process” to sort the situation.
“I did not feel the process was protecting my child as well as it could.”
He said the school had been unable to confirm to him that the pistol was a cigarette lighter, and no one had sighted the lighter.
Mr Bell, in a statement to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend yesterday, said the father of the boy with the pistol had said the gun was a cigarette lighter. It was handed in by the father to police and police had contacted him yesterday afternoon to say an arms expert had confirmed the replica gun was a lighter.
But the father said he rung the police investigating officer early on Thursday evening and was told it was a soft air gun – a BB gun.
A statement by police received at 8.43am yesterday said ”police had made enquiries and established it was a soft pellet gun”. However another statement issued five hours later said enquires had established it was actually a replica pistol, which worked as a cigarette lighter.
Katrina Casey, the Ministry of Education’s deputy secretary of sector enablement and support, said they were working with the New Zealand School Trustees Association and a working group to develop guidelines for firearms in schools. The group included principals, teacher unions, police and the defence force.
A letter to Bellevue School parents said the student that brought the pistol to school was not attending school while the matter was being investigated.
Source: Bay of Plenty Times