Police found a BB gun at a school bus stop in the Rancho Vistoso neighborhood last week, a day after a student at the bus stop allegedly threatened to bring a gun to school and kill a student, according to a police report.
On Sept. 16, a man was walking in the neighborhood when he saw what looked like a handgun in the hand of a student at the bus stop, according to a police report. He flagged down the school bus, bound for Ironwood Ridge High School. The bus driver parked the bus away from the pick-up point and called the police.
This happened near the intersection of Woodburne Avenue and Arrowsmith Drive at a bus stop somewhat removed from public view, with students standing against a wall, said the father of a student on the bus, who asked to not be identified.
"It wouldn't have happened, I think, if it was in the front yard of a home," the father said.
A student at the bus stop, who also asked to not be named, said that after the passerby flagged down the bus, a student in the bus used her cellular phone to notify someone at the bus stop that the police were on their way because someone had seen a gun.
When a police officer arrived, she asked whether any of the students had a gun and was told "no," the student said. The officer asked whether anyone had something resembling a gun, and was told that someone had a cellular phone.
A search of all the students' backpacks and clothing turned up no weapons, according to the report. A search of the area turned up a BB gun, a bag of BBs, a pipe and a dime-size amount of marijuana.
Two students at the bus stop identified the person who brought the BB gun as the same person who allegedly threatened the previous day to kill someone at school, according to the report.
Todd Jaeger, legal counsel for Amphitheater Public Schools, said while he empathizes with parents' concerns, he is not allowed to say whether the student who allegedly brought a BB gun to the bus stop will face a suspension hearing.
"What we hope is that they recognize that if it were their child they would not want the district disclosing what may or might or could happen to their child," he said.
Amphi has a zero tolerance policy on weapons, a district hearing officer said, adding that anything resembling a weapon is considered one, whether it's a realistic-looking water pistol or a piece of wood that looks like a gun.
Jaeger said that while he recalled at least one suspension hearing from the 2002-03 school year that related to a discipline problem at a bus stop or on a bus, most serious offenses occur on school campuses. Also, school bus drivers undergo an extensive training program that addresses maintaining discipline.
"We certainly don't see our bus stops as any particular environment for disciplinary problems," Jaeger said. "They're just not."
In the wake of shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. in 1999, and at other schools across the nation, the father of a student on the Ironwood Ridge bus said he was alarmed that the students at the bus stop denied seeing anything that looked like a gun.
"After all that's happened, I don't know what we need to do to allow the kids to feel comfortable reporting to school officials some of these things that are happening at their bus stop," he said.
He questioned whether the instructions students get for reporting suspicious activity is too vague.
"They just say if you see some activity on campus it needs to be reported," he said. "But how do you go about it? How do you feel comfortable going about it?"
Becky Mendez, spokesperson for the Oro Valley Police Department, said she hopes last week's bus stop incident will provide a lesson to students.
"I hope we've provided some kind of education for these students that they shouldn't be flashing anything that looks like a weapon," she said.