School officials and Town police remain tight lipped about any forthcoming disciplinary action against a fourth grader who brought a weapon onto the campus of Legacy Traditional School in Queen Creek Aug. 24 as Principal Megan Alvarado remains on administrative leave.
“I hope you will understand that there is a pending investigation at the police level and the school is conducting its own review,” said Legacy spokesman Matt Benson.
It’s not clear what the disciplinary action will be, but a Queen Creek Police Department spokesperson says that charges, if any, will not be announced until this week at the earliest.
The disciplinary policy posted on the Legacy school’s website says, “Possessing any gun/firearm, knife, explosive device or dangerous instrument, dangerous item or simulated weapon” puts a student at risk of being expelled.
The “Consequence Chart and Definitions of Violations” section adds, “Due to the nature of the behavior or act, discipline up to expulsion may be considered, even for a first offense.”
Parents remain leery of sending their kids back to the Legacy school until there is some resolution to their concerns, such as how the student was able to enter campus in the first place with a gun in their backpack and why Legacy put Alvarado on administrative leave almost immediately after the incident.
That in and of itself raised concerns.
“Did she know beforehand?” Amanda Clarke, the parent of a Legacy student told ABC15, “What happened? What took place that was not right already? I don’t know his state of being why he brought the gun. I don’t know how he got the gun. We don’t want maybe a round two.”
Legacy is not responding to questions but did release the following statement upon putting Alvarado on administrative leave.
“The wellbeing of Legacy students, teachers and staff members is our highest priority, and that includes supporting a safe, inclusive and welcoming learning environment,” the statement said.
“We are investigating the circumstances around Thursday’s discovery of an armed student on campus, and this inquiry includes making certain the administration at all times followed Legacy security protocols. Principal Alvarado has been placed on administrative leave pending completion of this review.”
Legacy has not made additional statements since.
According to the National Alliance for Charter Schools website, Legacy Traditional Schools is the largest K-8 charter school system in Arizona with about 20,000 students and uses what it calls a “back to basics” curriculum in a “structured, accelerated classroom environment.”
Still relatively new, the Queen Creek Police Department responded to 2,000 service calls at schools in town, including charters and traditional public schools, though very few of those calls came from elementary schools.
Only 5% were criminal in nature, but Brice says the incident at Legacy reinforces the need for more officers to be visible publicly and in the schools.
“QCPD embraces community-oriented policing strategies and employs a very proactive approach to create, improve, and maintain relationships with schools and parents,” Chief Randy Brice said.
“This incident just highlights the need for preparation, prevention, and robust communication. QCPD is well trained, proactive, and properly equipped for these situations.”
At a recent Town Council meeting, Brice announced that the department has hired an engagement officer to interact with the public and with students when it’s not an emergency.
“Guns at schools are always a concern. QCPD continues to work with all of our schools to ensure they respond appropriately when they encounter such situations, and that they have a plan in place,” Brice said.
“Officers continue to engage with school officials to ensure the police department is notified as soon as possible when school officials learn about such situations. We also strive to make sure everyone is coordinated and using appropriate response protocols,” he said.
Police are likely to adjust preventive measures that could keep this from happening again in the future.
They could include additional school resource officers, or SROs, at more schools.
QCPD does not currently have one at Legacy as the department’s data-driven approach to putting officers at schools where the most calls are didn’t warrant one at Legacy. That could change as demands shift.
Though they are governed separately from charter schools, Queen Creek Unified Schools responded to the Legacy school gun incident.
“Ensuring a safe and healthy environment for all students is one of our top strategic priorities,” said district spokeswoman Jessica Bautista.
“We routinely remind students to report any threatening behavior against any other student, individual, or the school. In this way, we are all working together to keep our students and schools safe.”
The police response does not vary between charter, traditional or private schools, Brice said. Officers take the same approach regardless of the source of the emergency.
“Our response is the same when it comes to investigative or proactive policing efforts,” Brice said.