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On Tuesday, for the second time this month, the Atherton Police Department (APD) received a call from M-A staff notifying them that there may be a firearm on campus from an unattended backpack. The first incident, just three weeks ago, involved another student who brought a firearm on campus.
APD commander Daniel Larsen reported that the APD found that the gun, a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield .380 pistol, was loaded. After identifying the student that brought it to campus, officers took them to the Hillcrest Juvenile Detention Center for violations under four charges: holding a concealed firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a loaded firearm in public, and possessing a handgun as a minor.
Administration alerted M-A parents and guardians via an email from Principal Karl Losekoot on Wednesday morning, but did not announce it to students until Thursday in a message on Canvas. This was the first time students received any communication from administration about either of the gun incidents this month. In the message to parents, Losekoot said that the school “will pursue the most aggressive disciplinary sanctions legally allowed.” However, he also assured that “Preliminary facts point to the student never intending to use the weapon against our students and staff.”
Losekoot added in the note on Canvas that students can call the school at 650-322-5311 to make a report over the phone or come to the Administrative Vice Principal’s office to report any future incidents in person.
While there has fortunately not been an increase in the number of guns in Atherton, Larsen said, “The incidents at M-A are unusual. The police department maybe recovers one firearm from the nine school campuses in Atherton (including a preschool and a college campus) every few years.” Losekoot added, “The guns on campus are not normal occurrences at our school.”
“Over the past five years, and including the two November incidents, we had five weapon recovery cases from high schools,” Larsen reported. These weapons included pistols, replica firearms, and brass knuckles.
M-A Admin and the APD are now working more carefully to ensure that this does not happen again. Larsen requested that students let M-A admin know if they have ideas on how to keep the campus safe, as they have an upcoming meeting to take a “proactive approach to keep the campus community safe.” This was echoed by Losekoot, who also mentioned in the Canvas announcement that admin has a “strong relationship” with the Atherton Police Department.
“Schools should be a safe haven from violence, and campus safety is one of our highest priorities. The PD and the campus community have a shared interest and responsibility for campus safety, and the PD relies on the campus community to report unsafe behavior,” said Larsen.
“I also want to let students know that these incidents can cause each of us some anxiety, as knowing that a handgun was on campus is unsettling for all of us,” said Losekoot. He urged students to check in with counselors, teachers, or administrators if they are experiencing anxiety around gun violence at school. Near the end of the announcement, he recommended that students utilize the Zen Den as “a quiet place or a place where you can ask to speak to a social-emotional counselor,” or request an appointment for support. “Everyone here can help! Please reach out to me if you would like to talk about these incidents, campus safety, or the need for support,” he said.