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GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - A 15-year-old Absegami High School student was arrested after a loaded handgun was found on school grounds Friday, prompting a lockdown of the school that delayed the dismissal of class, police said.

Police Chief Donna Higbee said nobody was hurt and the school was locked down for about 40 minutes.

About 2 p.m. Friday, school officials were told a student was carrying a handgun on the school campus. At the time, the student was in gym class near the track and football field bleachers.

The school was placed in an immediate lockdown, Higbee said.

Police and school officials approached the student, who was seen grasping something in his pants pocket before he ran away out of view.

When police reached him, he did not have any weapons on him. All the students in gym class were ordered to lie on the ground and were patted down for weapons before they were removed from the area, police said.

The regional SWAT team also responded.

A search under the bleachers turned up a loaded .38-caliber handgun with five rounds, including one in the chamber, police said.

Other area schools also delayed dismissal and remained in a shelter-in-place mode until the Absegami grounds were cleared, police said.

School dismissal was delayed by about 20 minutes.

The student, a Galloway Township boy, was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon on school property and possession of a defaced firearm.

He was lodged Friday at the Harborfields Juvenile Detention Center in Egg Harbor City.

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to call Sgt. Ryan Goehringer at 609-652-3705 ext. 331.

Greater Egg Harbor Regional Superintendent John Keenan emailed parents Friday to let them know about the lockdown and discovery of the gun.

"We received information that there may be a gun at Absegami. The school was immediately placed in lockdown as police were contacted and began their investigation. During their investigation, police discovered a loaded handgun on school property and identified students involved in the incident," Keenan said.

The school followed district communications and safety procedures. After-school activities resumed once police were finished, he said.

"It is only natural, when receiving this kind of information, that we react with alarm and concern. The safety and security of our students and staff is always our number-one priority. It is unfortunate and sometimes frightening for something so dangerous to happen so close to home. Yet we must continue to work together to support one another and keep the lines of communication open," Keenan said.

Keenan urged anyone with information about the gun to contact Galloway Township police.

"While this type of incident is not exclusive to our community, we do take solace in the fact that our schools are among the safest public places," Keenan said. "We encourage you to take this opportunity to have a family discussion about personal safety. As always, our counseling staff is readily available to assist any student in need of support."

Staff Writer Diane D'Amico contributed to this report.

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