Parents Concerned about a Gun Brought to Head Start

Parents say a Meridian pre-school student brought a pellet gun or BB gun to Head Start and the center did not deal with it appropriately.

Two parents told Newscenter 11 that the incident happened Sept. 19 at the Charles L. Young Head Start Center, which serves 3 and 4-year-olds.

Ashley Johnson's 4-year-old daughter was one of the students in the classroom when a student took out the gun and started showing it to his classmates.

"This is the story that my daughter told me, that another lady from the hallway busted through the door and she was like, 'No,' and grabbed the gun and wrapped it up in something and then she took it out of the classroom," said Johnson. "I did talk to the center's assistant administrator and he was the one who said it wasn't that serious because it didn't have any pellets in it. And my response back to him was, 'Does a gun have to be loaded for it to be serious?"

Johnson and another parent at the school who didn't want to be named, are both expressing concerns because they say the student who took the gun to school returned the next day. They feel that he was not properly punished.

According to Johnson, her child's teacher told her that the gun belonged to the student's brother, who is in the 2nd grade. In light of what has happened, Johnson says she's very disappointed that letters still have not been sent out by center officials to all parents reminding them to regularly check their child's book bag.

"You can kill a squirrel with a pellet gun; a child's eye could've got hit," said Johnson.

"The way they brushed it under the rug, as if it's O.K.," said another concerned parent who did not want her face shown. "'It's just a pellet gun.' And we're not sure that it was just a pellet gun. That's what we're told."

The Charles Young Center is operated by Mississippi Action for Progress. In an interview via phone, an attorney for the organization stressed that the pellet gun was empty and no one was hurt.

Attorney Charlene Priester says the organization strives to meet the needs of its students and their families as a whole. That's why she says in the wake of the investigation, the agency is trying to make sure that the student's family gets necessary counseling.

Because of the young age of the student who brought the pellet gun and committed the offense, Priester says MAP officials felt that allowing him to return to school would not put anyone at the center in danger.

Priester says immediate action is being taken to more stringently enforce the agency's policy which prohibits students from carrying book bags or backpacks to school. This ban affects all of the agency's Head Start centers.