Teachable moment: School teacher's gun fires live round
The Dayton Daily News is reporting that Kettering police confiscated a muzzle-loading .50-caliber rifle from a Van Buren Middle School teacher Friday who was demonstrating a Civil War lesson and accidentally shot off a round in front of about 30 students outside the school.
From the story:
- Kettering police said seventh-grade social studies teacher Thomas Saylor apparently didn't know the weapon was loaded as he showed how difficult it was to load a black powder muzzle loader in Civil War days, according to Kettering Police Public Information Officer Larry Warren.
Warren said Saylor jammed the powder into the gun barrel, squeezed the trigger and the gun went off, sending a round 586 feet across the field, piercing a construction tool trailer near the football stadium stands. A construction worker standing nearby said later he heard a small explosion but did not see the bullet go in.
No one was injured, Warren said.
But the incident raised questions about why a teacher was allowed to bring such a weapon to school at a time when many schools have zero tolerance for students carrying weapons to class.
"It's horrible," said Superintendent Robert Mengerink, who was out of town Friday. "We don't follow a zero tolerance policy here for every rule. There is zero tolerance against violence and crime. We punish that. But if it's a mistake or accident, we don't follow zero policy."
Mengerink said Saylor was "trying to show, in a history lesson, how battles and war" have changed over the last 150 years, and "how much time it took for a soldier to load and fire off three shots. He didn't even know it fired a live round."
He called Saylor "an excellent teacher who was trying to do a good thing."
Mengerink said the district doesn't have a policy that says guns aren't allowed on school grounds, "but it's implied. I believe he thought he had permission" to demonstrate his lesson. "But (permission) did not come through central office."
J.C. Benton, a spokesman for the state board of education, told the newspaper that since the 1980s guns have been prohibited in schools "but in educational instances that can be flexible." In such instances, the teacher should have clearance from the school board and superintendent and should not use live ammunition, he said.
Mengerink told the DDN he expects Saylor to be in school Monday. "He's a fine teacher and I know he did this with the best of intent. We're not going to be doing any disciplinary actions at this time. We're going to be investigating to see what happened and what did occur," he said.
Again, from the story:
- Kettering police first learned of the incident after getting a call from a construction worker at the site around noon who said his trailer had been shot.
"He thought maybe it had been hit during the night," Warren said.
Lackey said Saylor had no idea he had fired a live round until the police came to the school.
Warren said the police will be investigating to see if there's any reason for criminal charges. He called it "a very valuable lesson," especially since "everybody is safe."
"It could have been bad," Kettering police Officer Mike Pittman said. "People were very close to where the round went in."