Officials confirmed Thursday that they believe an Evanston Middle School student took a handgun to school sometime prior to Oct. 21, which is when Jon Kirby said Evanston Police Department was notified of the incident. (HERALD PHOTOS/Deborah Demander)
By Deborah Demander and Bryon Glathar
EVANSTON — Officials have confirmed rumors that they believe an Evanston Middle School student had a handgun at school, sometime prior to Oct. 21, when Evanston Police Chief Jon Kirby said his department was notified of the event.
Rumors of an incident at one of the middle schools had been circulating on Halloween, one day after Kirby said police responded again to EMS to follow up on the case after his department investigated the incident.
“We were called to Evanston Middle School. We immediately secured the student and looked through his locker and found nothing,” Kirby said yesterday in a Herald interview.
Kirby said the student denied ever bringing a gun on to school property. While police didn’t actually recover a handgun at the school, upon further investigation, they believe the student in question did, in fact, bring the weapon into the school.
“A gun was located,” Kirby said, “not by police and not at the school.”
Officials didn’t comment on whether or not the gun was loaded or whether or not the student also brought ammunition to school.
The Herald learned of the incident earlier this week from a post on a Facebook page maintained by Uinta County School District. No. 1.
On the district’s Facebook page was a notice regarding the incident. In the post, the district says, “Maintaining a safe environment in our schools is our first priority as a school district.” The post goes on to confirm that a student was in possession of a firearm at Evanston Middle School. According to the post, another student reported the incident to his parents, resulting in the discovery of the firearm.
The district did not release any other information regarding the incident.
No mention was made of the incident in two subsequent school board meetings but during the Tuesday, Nov. 12 school board meeting, the board went into executive session, which is closed to the public, to discuss a “student discipline issue.”
Superintendent Ryan Thomas said in an interview with the Herald, “Things have gone well with this situation. We didn’t want to give the impression that we were hiding anything, which is why we posted the information on our Facebook page,” Thomas said. “Only the school board can take action against a student. In this case, we have the best-case scenario — the parents are on board with the discipline. Schools can’t wait for the police to take action, because sometimes the wheels of justice turn slowly.
“This incident has shown us that no place is free from this kind of stuff anymore,” he said.
One school board member commented that the information that could be legally released has been released, and the matter has been sent to the courts.
Uinta County Attorney Dean Stout said he couldn’t legally comment on the case.
Kirby said that since the student is a minor, information for public release is very limited.
He did, however, say his department doesn’t take cases such as this lightly and EPD acted promptly upon learning of the incident.
“We take it seriously,” Kirby said. “We sent a whole bunch of people as soon as we were called.”
Kirby said that since the incident occurred at least a day before EPD was notified, and there was no gun found at the school at the time, he left it in the school district’s hands whether or not to notify parents.
Meanwhile, some parents aren’t too pleased with the district’s communication — or lack thereof — regarding the incident.
One comment on the Herald’s Facebook page indicated the author wasn’t pleased with how the incident was handled.
“I work for the Sheriff’s Office and I usually hear about stuff like this!” Bill Burns wrote. “I have to hear about it through Facebook... Not only is it unacceptable, it is unprofessional! What happened to sending a letter home to parents?!? Get off the dang email and Facebook kick and do something productive ...”