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3 Alabama schools hit with weapons scares; 2 arrested

MONTGOMERY (AP) -—Two students were arrested for bringing loaded handguns to Alabama schools, and an apparent weapons threat at Smiths Station High School sent many anxious students heading home the same day.

In Opelika, a 12-year-old student at West Forest Intermediate School smuggled a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol in his backpack Thursday and had threatened at least two students, said Opelika Police Capt. Alan Elkins. The fifth-grader, who faces expulsion from school, was placed in juvenile detention.

In Mobile, a 16-year-old Murphy High School ninth-grader, who hadn’t been in school for several weeks, was also arrested Thursday after faculty members saw the boy on campus and later found a loaded .380-caliber handgun in his backpack.

The scare at Smiths Station High, which turned out to be false, prompted 182 students to check out of school.

Lee County Sheriff’s deputies were at the school early Thursday morning after hearing rumors that weapons would be taken to the school.

“Nothing happened except parents coming to check out their children,” said Cindy Irvin, a spokeswoman for Lee County Schools.

“Students were texting parents, and it got out of control. We’re trying to reassure people that it is safe, but we understand their concerns.”

The threat apparently stemmed from a dispute between groups of students after vulgar graffiti and a small painting of a Confederate flag were written on the sidewalk of the school’s courtyard Tuesday evening.

School officials said the problems weren’t gang-related or racially motivated.

The Opelika 12-year-old, who showed the gun to several students during breakfast, was charged with illegal possession of a weapon on a school campus after a student reported the weapon to a teacher.

“The gun had seven rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber,” Elkins said. “School administrators did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

The juvenile was taken to the Lee County Youth Development Center.

Elkins said the weapon belongs to one of the student’s relatives or a family friend.

In Mobile, police spokesman Officer Eric Gallichant said the ninth-grader was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and was taken to Strickland Youth Center.

Mobile County Public School Systems spokeswoman Nancy Pierce said the student faces suspension after Thursday’s incident.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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