The Ottumwa Community School District will follow board policy and the Iowa Code in dealing with an OHS sophomore who brought a 9 mm handgun to school on Thursday, March 8.
The student has been arrested by the Ottumwa Police Department and charged with carrying a weapon on school grounds, a Class D felony. The juvenile will be charged as an adult due to the weapons violation. The student was also immediately suspended from the district.
According to the board policy on weapons (502.6), “students bringing firearms to school or knowingly possessing firearms at school will be expelled for not less than one year.” The expulsion falls under a different board policy (503.2) where students may be expelled for violating board policy, school rules, or the law. “It is within the discretion of the board to discipline a student by an expulsion for a single offense. It is within the discretion of the superintendent to recommend to the board the expulsion of a student for disciplinary purposes. Only the board may take action to expel a student and to readmit a student.” According to the student conduct board policy (503.1), expulsion means action by the board to remove a student from the school environment, which includes, but is not limited to, classes and activities, for a period of time set by the board.
Students who are recommended for expulsion are provided: Notice of reason for proposed expulsion; written report on the facts; an opportunity to present defense; the right to be represented by counsel; and the results and finding of the board in writing open to the student’s inspection.
“Situations such as this are unfortunate,” said Superintendent Nicole Kooiker. “As a district, we take each situation seriously and have safety as our number one priority.”
According to a recent Des Moines Register article, school threats across the country have increased significantly since the Florida shooting a few weeks ago. In Iowa, the number of threats is also on the rise. According to Educator’s Safety School Network, over 810 threats and incidents involving a weapon have occurred across the country since February 15, impacting over 1,000 schools. In Iowa, there have been at least 13 school threats. In a recent mid-year report released by the network, several key findings were shared:
1. Violent threats and incidents occur daily in U.S. schools.
2. Significant increase in the number of actual incidents of violence.
“I’m very proud of the team at OHS, our students, and our law enforcement partners,” said OHS Principal, Cory Johnson. “Because of the close relationship with Ottumwa Police Department, our two School Resource Officers are familiar with our school, students, and procedures. Having them in our building allows us to quickly respond to emergencies. Staff followed policies and procedures on how to approach this situation. We have debriefed and continue reviewing our response in order to ensure the safety of our school.”