ATLANTIC CITY — A student accidentally fired a loaded handgun in an empty bathroom at the Oceanside Charter School on Thursday, but no injuries were reported.
Jeanine Middleton, the school’s lead administrator, said the student had a gun in a bathroom located in a trailer and discharged it.
“He was experimenting,” she said. “There was no malice or emotion to it.”
The charter school — which operates independently from the city’s school system — has existed for 14 years in one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods, and officials said the family atmosphere has created a safe environment for its students through the years. But Thursday morning was the first time police responded to the school in its 14-year history.
Police responded to the 1700 block of Bacharach Boulevard at 11:55 a.m. and detained two students, ages 9 and 11, for questioning.
When staff members first heard the explosion in the bathroom, they thought it was a broken pipe. After visiting the bathroom and seeing the damaged sink, they began asking students what happened. The gun was recovered and the police were notified within 20 minutes, Middleton said.
The student who fired the gun walked away from the bathroom to a main trailer. The gun later was found in another student’s backpack. Police and the school are still trying to determine how the gun appeared on school property and how it ended up in the backpack.
The school has 380 students. About six parents came early to pick up their kids when word of the incident spread, Middleton said. Other parents called to check in, but were satisfied the students were safe at the school, she said.
“They are so good here with nonviolence,” said parent Rae Gray of Atlantic City. “It’s why I chose this school for my daughter. A lot of this happens in schools. This is still one of the best schools.”
Sgt. Monica McMenamin, the Atlantic City Police Department’s public information officer, said the weapon recovered was a loaded handgun.The 9-year-old brought the gun to school, she said. Both students were charged as juveniles with unlawful possession of a weapon. They were released to their parents and police are investigating if they should charge any adults.
The school was briefly on lockdown, but classes then resumed on the normal schedule.
The incident occurred at a time of heightened attention about city violence after two tourists from Canada were stabbed earlier this week. But the school — located across the street from the Stanley Homes Village complex — has not had any safety issues before this, Middleton said.
The complex has eight trailers, which are locked. Middleton said she did not think the incident would change the school’s position of not having metal detectors or result in any other security changes to the school.
“In 14 years, we’ve had no incidents of violence or vandalism,” she said. “We’ve had no weapons onsite and police have never been called in for a fight. If that’s our standard, I don’t believe we need to do something different.”
Middleton said the school has a family atmosphere that encourages kids to communicate.
“We are aware if something is going on,” she said. “The students try to keep it a safe environment. This incident does not define who we are — our vision — what we do every day and what we do for the students.”
Atlantic City resident Nicole Green has sent four kids to the school.
“This school is excellent,” she said. “You can’t blame the school. You should blame the kids and the parents. I feel my kids are safe. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t send them here.”
Staff Writers Sarah Watson and Lynda Cohen contributed to this story.
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