New Albany News

District officials use lockdown as a teachable moment

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

New Albany police say a parent didn't break the law when he was armed while picking up his child at school Jan. 13, but district officials say he did violate district policy.

However, district officials say they likely won't take action against him and instead will use the incident as a teachable moment.

"We've not determined that it warrants action," said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway. "We want to use this as an awareness issue for our community. We want people to know how this policy affects them on our campus and what they can and can't do on the campus."

New Albany police received a 911 call at 3:26 p.m. Jan. 13 from a caller saying a man with a gun entered the 2-5 elementary building -- a statement later determined inaccurate by New Albany police.

The 911 caller saw the man's weapon when the man reached into his car for an umbrella, according to police Chief Greg Jones.

All school buildings and the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts went into lockdown immediately and two officers already on school property -- DARE officer Leland Kelly and school resource officer Ryan Southers -- began searching the elementary building for a man with a gun.

Jones said another officer disarmed the man outside the school building and had him in custody by 3:36 p.m.

The lockdown ended at 3:49 p.m., Jones said.

Jones said officers determined the parent had a concealed-carry permit and did not enter the building, as the 911 caller erroneously stated.

Officers contacted the student's teacher, who confirmed the man did not enter the building, Jones said.

He said the parent has an arrangement with the school to pick up his child. He stands outside the door until the child is brought to him.

Jones said Ohio's concealed-carry laws have changed in the past 18 months and the most recent changes to the laws allow a permit holder to have a concealed weapon when dropping off or picking a child up from school.

He said the police department contacted the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office to confirm that the parent did not violate the law.

"There was no violation of the law," Jones said. "We took a report and we have his information but there are no charges. A year ago, it would have been a violation, but with recent amendments it no longer is a violation of the law."

The parent did, however, seem to violate district policy.

"The board of education prohibits visitors from possessing, storing, making or using a weapon, including a concealed weapon, in a school safety zone and any setting that is under the control and supervision of the board for the purpose of school activities approved and authorized by the board including, but not limited to, property leased, owned or contracted for by the board, a school-sponsored event or in a board-owned vehicle," the policy says.

The policy also says the superintendent may "exclude the visitor from board property and board-sponsored events, regardless of whether such visitor possesses a valid concealed-weapon license."

Jones said the New Albany Police Department has no authority to enforce the school district policies. He said if the school district takes action against the parent -- expelling him from school property, for example -- the police department could be called if the man trespasses on school property.

Gallaway said many parents called the district about the incident. The district sent out emails and posted web updates Jan. 13 and 14 regarding the issue.

The district has a response team in place to deal with any children or adults who have issues dealing with the situation, he said.

The district also alerted parents to a Jan. 16 incident in which a boy who got off a school bus in the North of Woods subdivision said a Hispanic man in a silver Honda motioned for the boy to come to the vehicle.

The child refused and went home and told his parents, who alerted police. Police searched the area and did not find the vehicle or the man.

Southers and Michael Sawyers, the district's chief of operations and strategic development, reminded students in a Jan. 16 email to run away from strangers to "a public location, to other adults, to a group of people, into a public building or store" and "yell for help."

Students should tell others what happened and call the police, the email said.

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