Middletown High student held after handgun found in bag

MIDDLETOWN — A handgun was discovered in a student’s backpack following a confrontation at Middletown High late Friday morning, a district superintendent said later in the day.

In an e-mail to parents and staff just after 4 p.m. the Appoquinimink School District detailed the incident, with Superintendent Dr. Matt Burrows explaining that “Shortly before noon today, a quick-thinking teacher called down to the office to report an altercation between two students at Middletown High.

“Staff were able to separate the teens before any blows were thrown, and no one was injured. But, a check of one student’s bag revealed a handgun.”

Dr. Burrows said that law enforcement quickly responded to a 911 call from the school and “the student was taken into custody without incident.”

A Delaware State Police criminal investigation was ongoing, according to Dr. Burrows. An attempt to contact State Police for more information was not immediately successful.

Responding school staff – including Michelle Semonelle, Brant Perry, Joe Lahutsky and Principal Dr. Matt Donovan – received praise from the superintendent.

“ … let me emphasize that the real heroes today were our Middletown High School staff,” Dr. Burrows said. “Their vigilance, quick thinking and solid instincts contained the situation before it even began.”

The student in question was suspended immediately and taken from the scene by responding police, Dr. Burrows said.

“Following our Code of Conduct, and pending the conclusion of a formal investigation, he will not be allowed further contact with students or staff, and will not be allowed back on school property,” Dr. Burrows said. “Due to the seriousness of the infraction, this student will not be returning to our schools.”

The superintendent also said, “Illegal and dangerous behavior is not tolerated in the Appoquinimink School District. Weapons of any kind are not permitted on or near school property.”

District staff will evaluate the circumstances moving forward to assure safety is maintained, Dr. Burrows said.

“As the parent of two teens, I know how unnerving it is to hear that our community has experienced an incident like this,” he said.

“I can reassure you that we’ll do our best to make sure something like this doesn’t occur again, and that we are, and will continue to be, vigilant stewards of our students and schools.”

The superintendent urged parents to remain aware of possible threats and speak up with concerns.

“In closing, I’d like to leave you with this thought,” he said. “When it comes to school safety, vigilance is our best defense. Please help the staff and I as we communicate to our children, “If you see something, say something.”

A few minutes after the first email, Dr. Burrows sent another message addressing an unfounded rumor that MHS was on lockdown status.
“Principal Donovan had an incident in his building requiring that a student be removed,” Dr. Burrows said.

“While that was underway, the school declared a ‘hold’ so that hallways could be cleared. But there is no lockdown. The school simply applied a common-sense approach to limit disruption.”

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