BILLINGS – Parents at Washington Elementary are asking for answers the day after a third-grade student brought a handgun to school Tuesday.
Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham said Wednesday that while the district is releasing few details, the incident happened late in the school day and was brought to the attention of a teacher by a concerned student.
“It’s so important that parents and caregivers communicate with their students and the schools that it is such a welcoming environment that everyone feels safe to go to an adult at any point in time and share information,” said Upham. “This was a win because of that, so we want to continue to encourage that kind of communication and behavior.”
Jennifer Mars, who has a daughter in first grade at Washington Elementary, was one of the many parents upset after they say they were not notified of the incident until hours after the school day was over.
“I think they should call the parents immediately and let them know what’s going on,” said Mars. “I would have liked to have had a phone call.”
Mars said that she never got a phone call from the district and learned about the incident from a MTN News article Wednesday morning. Her husband did receive a robo-message though, around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
“That a student had brought a gun to school and that they were on lockdown for part of the day,” Mars said of the message.
Billings Police Lt. Brandon Wooley said the department is working with the school district to investigate the incident.
Upham said he recognized the parents’ frustrations, but that the district did what it could given the circumstances.
“We did our best to communicate with our parents last night when the event occurred and we had information we could share,” said Upham.
He said the district encountered a few problems in getting the information out sooner.
“It was partly gathering information,” said Upham. “It was also part of the robocall system that we have in place and then also making sure that all parents have updated information with.”
Upham said – and Mars agrees – that parents need to make sure they are safely storing their firearms and that they talk to their children about gun safety.
Reporting by Samantha Sullivan for MTN News