Officer Noyoka Davis is a middle school resource officer for Clayton Public Public Schools’ police department. She is one of several women on the newly-formed school safety and security force, which has had a presence on middle and high school campuses since August. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
JONESBORO — Chief Clarence E. Cox III said he was pleased with the response of the school resource officer at Riverdale High Friday.
He said the officer took appropriate actions and did the best under the unforeseen circumstances. The officer discovered a loaded handgun while trying to help pull two students apart during a fight.
Cox said the Taurus 9mm fell from the person of one student as the officer and another school employee tried to contain and relocate the students away from the school’s common areas and hallways. He said the officer secured the students and the gun without further incident.
“That was a system that worked well in Friday’s incident,” said Cox. “The security officer did an excellent job. He was separating the two offenders. When the weapon did fall out, there was no harm to anyone else. I’m very, very happy that the security officer did what he was trained to do.”
Cox said the district uses its metal detectors and wands randomly throughout the year partly to keep systems fresh and unpredictable.
“We have a system in place where we do random metal detector checks,” he said. “There’s no district in metro Atlanta that uses metal detectors daily.”
Resources and time, too, are considerations in providing the security checkpoints. He said operating metal detectors requires multiple officers depending on the scope of operations.
“It’s a school, not a prison,” said spokeswoman Vicki Gavalas. “The metal detectors are a point of deterrence.”
She added that students do not enter schools at the same point or at the same times during the school day.
Gavalas said the district provides a metal detector and an officer at each of its middle and high schools. She said many of the district’s metal detectors are between 10-15-years-old with newer machines operating at new school, but all are operational.
Metal detectors were not used the day officers discovered a student with a loaded handgun.
“Our preliminary investigation made us realize that even if metal detectors had been used on that day, the limited amount of detectors would not have totally secured that campus,” said Cox, noting the several access points at older schools such as Riverdale High.
Cox commended officers and staff at the school as well as outside agencies who cooperated and gave assistance including Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and the Riverdale Police Department.
He said school police ran a procedural trace on the weapon and turned up no initial hits indicating it had been reported stolen or lost.
Officials said the student allegedly wielding the firearm was charged with felonypossession of a firearm by a minor and three misdemeanors including disruption of a public school, affray and simple battery. He has appearances in Clayton County Juvenile Court.
The second student involved in the fight, officials added, was charged with disruption of a public school, affray and simple battery.
Cox said the situation should remind gun-owners to be particularly cautious about their firearms and account for them at all times.
Gavalas echoed his sentiments.
“Guns don’t belong in school,” said Gavalas. “Parents with weapons should make sure they are secure and locked and that there is an accounting of them at all times. Impress upon your children the importance of gun safety.”
Residents can report suspicious activity or emergencies to the department’s iWatch Clayton mobile app and hotline. Visit www.iwatchclaytoncountypublicschools.com, to sign up for mobile and email alerts.