- Olivia Hitchcock Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
4:30 p.m. UPDATE: The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said that the gun found in a 6-year-old’s backpack at a West Palm-area charter school Thursday morning was loaded.
According to witnesses, when the unidentified student walked into the classroom at Somerset Academy Lakes, he tossed down his backpack and the gun fell out.
The sheriff’s office said the teacher “immediately rushed the students out of the classroom” and told the school’s staff. The principal contacted the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office is still trying to determine how the loaded gun got into the kindergartner’s backpack.
Original Story: A teacher found a gun in a kindergartner’s backpack Thursday morning at Somerset Academy Lakes, according to school and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office authorities.
The student didn’t know the gun was in the backpack, according to a message Principal Clint Duvo sent to parents. He stressed that neither students nor the staff at the Summit Boulevard campus were in danger.
The teacher found the firearm before classes began, Duvo said. The school’s staff immediately moved students away from the area, secured the classroom and called authorities, Duvo said.
The situation was handled “very, very quickly,” said Lynn Norman-Teck, a spokeswoman for the Florida Charter School Alliance.
Authorities are investigating how the firearm ended up in the elementary school student’s backpack, the sheriff’s office said. It was not immediately known whether anyone will face charges in the incident.
The elementary charter school with ties to Miami rapper Pitbull and a large charter management company opened in 2016 on the campus north of Palm Springs and west of West Palm Beach.
The elementary school shares a building with its sister middle school, SLAM Palm Beach.
Students have been caught with guns in Palm Beach County District schools at least 10 times this academic year, according to a Post analysis of court, police and school records. Only one of those incidents happened at an elementary school. It occurred last month when a gun was found in a Cholee Lake Elementary School student’s backpack.
Somerset Academy Lakes is not a district school, meaning crime on campus is not handled by school police but instead by the sheriff’s office.
About one in 10 of the county’s students attend charter schools.
Here’s the text of the statement Duvo sent to parents:
Here at Somerset Lakes/SLAM, the safety and welfare of our students is always our paramount concern. We will always inform you of any concerns affecting our school community.
This morning, before classes began, a teacher discovered there was a weapon in an early childhood student’s backpack. The student body and staff were never in any danger. Immediately upon discovering the gun, the classroom was secured, students were removed from the area, and authorities were notified. It is our understanding that the student did not intend to bring the weapon to school and had no knowledge that there was a weapon in the backpack.
A Palm Beach County Schools official is on-site. Police are conducting a full investigation. We wanted to inform you of the incident as soon as law enforcement cleared us to do so and re-assure you again that no student was ever in any danger. We will continue to keep you informed as we have updates. For further information, please feel free to contact me at (561) 641-4449.
Staff writer Hannah Winston contributed to this story.