DeRidder parents upset after gun incident at school - FOX29 Lake Charles

DeRidder parents upset after gun incident at school

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(Source: Candy Rodriguez/KPLC) (Source: Candy Rodriguez/KPLC)
DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) -

Many parents are upset after a Wednesday morning incident at Pine Wood Elementary in DeRidder.

Travis Richter and Jessica Corley are two of those parents.

"I'm trying to be calm about the whole situation," said Richter.

"I think they're not taking this as serious as it is," said Corley.

The parents said they, along with several others, were not notified by school administrators after their children claimed they saw two individuals with a gun. 

The children told their parents the gun was pointed at them during a physical education class on the playground when the two individuals walked near the fence.

"It terrified me knowing that he could have been shot yesterday and I didn't know about it until 4 o'clock," said Corley about her fourth-grade son. He told Corley the news as soon as he got home from school.

Richter said his fifth-grade daughter also came home from school with the same story.

"Pointing a gun at kids on a playground - that draws a whole new line for me," he said.

It wasn't until the parents took the news to Facebook that they discovered their worst fears were a reality.

"You can't hide nothing anymore," said Richter. "Social media - got you!"

KPLC talked to several parents, who said their comments inquiring about the situation were deleted on various Facebook pages. 

The Beauregard Parish School Board and the DeRidder Police Department released a joint statement on Thursday:

On April 12, 2017, a physical education class at Pine Wood Elementary was on the playground when students reported to a teacher that two individuals had walked by near the fence and made a comment to the students that caused the students to think that one of the individuals might have a weapon. The students reported what was said to a teacher. The teacher moved the students indoors and reported the incident to the principal. The police were contacted and investigated the report. The police were unable to verify any situation or find any individuals that would be cause for alarm.

Although the police could not substantiate the report, out of an abundance of caution, the students remained in a safe environment for the remainder of the school day.

School Resource Officers stayed on campus, patrolling the school and grounds for the remainder of the day. We understand parental concern, but want parents to know that school officials and law enforcement officers responded immediately to the report with their main objective to keep the students safe.

However, parents said they should have been notified about the situation. 

"I don't think that they want parents to know about it and I think that we should know about," Corley said. "I mean, our children's lives were at stake yesterday and we knew nothing until our children came home from school."

Gabryelle Bowers was one of the few parents notified by school administrators. 

"They weren't going to say anything, Bowers said. "I feel like they were just going to let it go, so long as we let it go. The principal called me about 12:45 [p.m.] and he said, almost quote, 'I was just calling to inform you in case your son came home to tell you that he was interviewed by the police.'"

Bowers said she immediately went to the school.

"I was livid," she said. "You didn't give me the opportunity to give you permission to speak with my son; I don't know what he's talking to the police about and it's too late to do anything about it."

Superintendent Timothy Cooley also released an additional statement on Thursday:

I appreciate the students coming forward to let the teacher know about a potential situation. I commend the employees who handled the situation professionally and as per protocol. I appreciate the DeRidder Police Department responding immediately, for helping investigate the situation, and for helping keep our school safe. Safety is of paramount importance for our school district, and keeping our students safe is a top priority and a responsibility that all the employees of the Beauregard Parish School Board take seriously. We realize the trust that parents place in us and work diligently every day to ensure the safety of our students.

But for these parents, they said a statement is not enough.

"There is no way in the world that we should not know what's going on with our children whether they are safe or not safe; we should be informed," Bowers said. 

The DeRidder Police Department also said no arrest has been made at this time in relation to this incident.

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