CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. – It's happened again – for the fifth time in just two weeks. Clayton County has had to put a school on lockdown – the latest was Mount Zion High School, after officials found a gun on campus.
In the past three weeks, Clayton School Police have locked down Riverdale High, Drew High, Lovejoy High, North Clayton Middle School and Mount Zion High – three of those within the same week.
In two of those cases, the gun was a fake – a toy.
But in some ways, says Clayton County school police chief Clarence Cox, the danger is the same.
"My officers have to determine in a split second if this is real or not," said Cox. "At some point, we're gonna have a bad situation where we're gonna have a fatality on a school and it may be an officer shooting and killing an innocent person who possesses this trash on our campuses."
Friday night, every one of the district's 52,000 students and their parents got a recorded message from Cox.
"Please pay attention to this very important message," the message said in part. "Today I called so that you would clearly understand – weapons will not be tolerated,"
"The good news is that they're finding out from other students. So their campaign – "See something, say something" – seems to be working. Now they've got to figure out how to keep the weapons out in the first place.
"It's not our desire to create a school-to-prison pipeline," Cox said. "That's not our desire. But the folks who need to go, they're gonna go. If they continue to bring this trash into the schools, they're going. And I don't feel sorry about it."
We're told Superintendent Luvenia Jackson is in the process of writing her own letter to parents, which will go out next week.
In Friday's case, the student will face three charges – carrying a concealed weapon, having a gun on school grounds and disrupting a public school system. For adults, those charges are all felonies, but in Friday's case, at least, the student will be treated as a juvenile, so the penalties would be less severe. But the charges would be the same no matter if the gun were fake or real.