Originally created 04/24/98

Absence of police report surprises superintendent

When a loaded gun was taken from a Harlem Middle School pupil Tuesday, Harlem police -- just a few blocks away -- never got a call.

"If they had requested us, we would have been more than glad to go," said Police Chief Johnny Beard. "I don't know why they didn't call."

It's standard procedure to notify local authorities when a weapon is found at a school, said Columbia County schools Superintendent Tom Dohrmann.

Tuesday, however, the school system's safety officers handled the incident in house, never contacting Harlem police and using the Columbia County Sheriff's Office only to transport the child.

"I'm curious as to why there was not a report filed," Dr. Dohrmann said, adding that he intends to review how the incident was handled.

"If we get something that involves a weapon, drugs, alcohol, our procedure is that law enforcement is immediately called -- and they were."

School Safety Officer Buddy Hendry, who handled the incident, said he is not aware of a policy requiring him to request assistance.

Officer Hendry filed a juvenile complaint form Tuesday, and he asked for a deputy's assistance in transporting the 13-year-old to the Regional Youth Detention Center.

While it may be standard procedure to notify local law enforcement, according to Dr. Dohrmann, there is no written agreement between schools and the sheriff's office on notification.

"There is no definitive written policy which states when and where school officials must contact the sheriff's office or local law enforcement, but we have encouraged school officials to report all criminal activity committed on school property," said sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

Tuesday's incident at Harlem Middle was the first school weapons case of the year involving a gun.

The last gun-at-school case in Columbia County was last year at Lakeside Middle School.


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