‘Human error’ led to gun making it through school security checkpoint

‘Human error’ led to gun making it through school security checkpoint
The principal at Whittemore Park Middle School in Conway gave parents further details into officials’ investigation after a gun was found in a student’s possession on Wednesday. (Source: Casey Watson)

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County Schools said it will be taking another look at its security measures after a gun made it past a screening station.

Whittemore Park Middle School officials said after investigating, they found out the student who brought a gun to school Wednesday had hidden it inside a shoe that was in a backpack.

Lisa Bourcier, a spokesperson for HCS, said it was another student that alerted administrators to the gun.

“That’s how we were notified, that student was aware that the other student was in possession of a handgun in the bathroom and notified a staff member. I think the very important thing is is that we had a very brave student come forward and notify an adult," Bourcier said.

So how did this gun make it into the school?

HCS security standards indicate there are student screening stations established for each student entry point. All middle and high schools have metal detectors and must be used at each school every day.

All student backpacks, book bags and handbags have to be searched by hand, by staff members.

“The individual did go through the metal detector and the bag was actually hand-searched by a staff member, however, the search was not complete because that weapon was not discovered," said Bourcier.

This incident has left some fearing to send their children or siblings to school.

“My first year of him coming here and having concerns and he’s been here what.. a little over a month? It’s like my fears were confirmed," said Nickie Cox, whose son goes to WMS.

“It really, really scared me. I did not want her to come to school after because we just got a voicemail on the phone saying ‘there was a gun found at the school’ and my sister was there as that was happening," said Haley Ernie, whose sister goes to WMS.

This incident came nearly nine years to the day after a “Columbine” style attack on Socastee High School.

On Sept. 21, 2010, investigators with Horry County Police arrested 14-year-old Christian Helms for shooting at Socastee High School resource officer Erik Karney.

After police arrested Helms, they said they found multiple pipe bombs and explosive materials meant to be used in an attack against students.

Bourcier said after the 2010 shooting, a completely new set of security measures started.

“We’ve had quite a financial investment for funding to support these safety and security parameters," Bourcier said.

But with a staff member missing the gun hidden inside of the backpack on Wednesday, Bourcier said it’s time to take a second look at the current security tactics.

“We know that there was a failure in that procedure yesterday and so we want to make sure that we revisit all of our search procedures with all of our staff members to make sure that does not happen again," said Bourcier.

The school district said based on South Carolina’s law, the student will be expelled because a gun was found in their belongings for a minimum of one year.

That law is as follows:

“The district board must expel for no less than one year a student who is determined to have brought a firearm to a school or any setting under the jurisdiction of a local board of trustees. The expulsion must follow the procedures established pursuant to Section 59-63-240. The one-year expulsion is subject to modification by the district superintendent of education on a case-by-case basis. Students expelled pursuant to this section are not precluded from receiving educational services in an alternative setting.”

The student accused of bringing the gun to school is now at a detention center in Columbia. Their name has not been released and there’s no word on a court date yet.

Copyright 2019 WMBF. All rights reserved.