CLAYTON, MO (KPLR) – Scary moments at a Clayton elementary school Tuesday morning as kindergarteners find a loaded gun on the playground at Captain Elementary school.
The gun was discovered on the playground at about 8:15 A.M. by three boys.
It was a stolen, semi-automatic, fully loaded 9mm.
But instead of picking it up, the boys told a nearby parent who removed the gun and gave it to a staff member, who gave it to the principal.
An email explaining the situation was sent to parents Tuesday afternoon.
Police believe the gun was tossed onto the playground by one of two suspects they were chasing in connection with a robbery four blocks away Sunday evening.
The playground was closed Monday because of bad weather.
The school district and the police say the kids did the right thing, and that parents should use this as a way to talk to their children about what to do if they find something suspicious.
'We are trying to focus the students on not what could have gone wrong in this situation, but what went right and why it is so important to make the right choice even when no one is looking,' said district spokesman Chris Tennill.
One of the suspects is charged with first degree robbery; the other has been released for now but may be charged later.
Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy praised the students and the school for the way they handled the situation.
The chief said in a perfect world he would prefer that anyone finding a gun leave it alone until police arrive, but that in this case, he knows the adults involved thought they were trying to do the right thing by moving the gun away from the kids, and he has no problem with that.
This is the letter sent home to Captain Elementary parents:
Dear Captain Parents:
Ensuring Captain Elementary is always a safe place for students to learn and staff to work is one of the most important things that I do. It is because we take safety so seriously that I want to make you aware of something that happened on the kindergarten playground today.
This morning, as the first students were arriving on the playground, three of our kindergarteners found what they thought was a handgun in the garden area next to the fence along the alley. Instead of touching the gun, the students went immediately to a parent who was on the playground. That parent retrieved the gun, found a staff member and discreetly brought it to me, where it was locked in my office while I contacted our school resource officer.
The gun, which was real, was promptly turned over to the Clayton Police. While their investigation is ongoing, they have confirmed that it was a stolen weapon and it was also likely thrown over the fence sometime over the weekend or last night. As we didn’t use either playground yesterday due to the inclement weather, this morning was the first time there were students in the area this week.
I realize that this type of news can be very unsettling. However, I’d encourage you to find some comfort in how those involved this morning did everything right. Our students, upon finding something that they knew was unsafe, didn’t touch the gun or pick it up but instead went immediately to the first adult they could find. The parent on the playground retrieved the gun, got the attention of the first staff member he could find, and discreetly brought it to a place where it could be locked up. Our school resource officer was on site in a matter of minutes, taking the gun out of school and immediately starting an investigation.
It’s hard to tell at this point how many or what kinds of questions this situation might generate for our students. Either way, events like this provide us with an opportunity to remind children (and ourselves) about what to do when they find something that they think is unsafe or find themselves in a situation that makes them feel unsafe. Ongoing conversations, both at home and at school, about being safe and doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, helped the students, parent and staff member involved in this situation react in exactly the right way.
I have spoken directly with the students and parents involved and plan to visit classrooms later today to talk with all of our students about the good choices made by our kindergartners this morning. If your children do come home with questions, instead of letting them worry about what might have gone wrong, let’s help them focus on the choices that were made that allowed everything to go right.
Feel free to call or email me with any questions you may have. Please know that all of us within the Captain community will do everything we can to ensure that school continues to be a safe place to learn and work.