Students got access to gun at Highland

By Anthony Conchel - The Sentinel

SPARTA — Parents attending the Highland Local Schools board of education meeting this week were upset about what they believe is a lack of communication regarding an incident last spring.

In March two Highland Elementary School students got access to a handgun that belonged to Vicky Nelson, transportation director. Nelson was authorized to carry it as part of the district’s safety plan.

Nelson reportedly left it in an unlocked case in her office in the administration building and then left the room.

Christine Scaffidi, assistant transportation director, walked into the office and found the gun out of its case and on the desk, with the children nearby, according to Superintendent Dan Freund. Nelson and Scaffidi notified him of the incident.

The Sentinel was unable to reach Highland’s administration for comment.

Local law enforcement authorities say they were not notified. Morrow County Sheriff John Hinton posted this response on Facebook this week:

“The Morrow County Sheriff’s Office never received written statements from Highland School concerning this incident. The Morrow County Sheriff’s Office was not aware that written statements existed until the (Columbus Dispatch) article was written.”

Nelson was removed from the school’s concealed weapons program and suspended without pay for three days, according to the newspaper.

Under Ohio law, school boards must have safety plans for concealed weapons programs and training for those holding the guns. But they don’t have to reveal to parents which personnel may be armed — or if they even have a concealed weapons program.

About 20 people attended Thursday night’s board meeting and some expressed outrage over the incident. They also are upset because they say they were not notified of what happened.

Parents at the meeting questioned the school’s safety plan put in place last year, allowing some administrators and staff — excluding teachers — to have a gun at school. Some parents said they were unaware of the policy.

“There should’ve been more communication. That obviously fell through the cracks,” said school board president Wayne Hinkle.

Hinkle opposed the decision to allow staff to carry guns in school.

The board said it would discuss both the communication issue and elements of the safety plan.

By Anthony Conchel

The Sentinel