KOLD INVESTIGATES: Student brings loaded gun to TUSD middle school
Gridley Middle teacher feels district isn’t doing enough to keep students, staff safe
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A Gridley Middle student brought a loaded gun to school after being suspended in early February.
A teacher at the school came forward with concerns that the Tucson Unified School District isn’t doing enough to protect staff and students.
The pandemic has brought more severe fighting and guns to some campuses in our region, and across the nation.
It appears Gridley is still having serious issues even though it is now about three-quarters of the way through the school year.
A disturbing discovery described in a police report -- a student’s backpack was searched by a Gridley administrator on Feb. 1. He found a loaded .38 revolver, sending chills throughout the school.
“We’ve had a number of kids that have come back that are not acting like middle school kids anymore,” said seventh-grade teacher Jon Easley. “They’re acting much more violent, much more aggressive, more socially backward.”
Easley said the 13-year-old student who jas been accused of bringing in the gun had been suspended for beating up a classmate on campus.
“I have never seen this level of violence in the 12 years I’ve taught,” he added.
According to the police report, the student returned and was handed in-school suspension.
He allegedly asked the students and teacher multiple times in the classroom, “what if I bring a grenade or gun to school?”
The next day, he brought the loaded gun.
The 13-year-old told police “it did not belong to him” and he “does not know how it got into his backpack.”
He said he believed some “unknown guys” he was playing basketball with put it in there.
But he had the gun before that day.
The school discovered he posted on Instagram the week before. He was ”smoking from a vape pen” and “pointing a revolver at the screen.”
Tucson police report the revolver matched the one found in his backpack.
“It’s concerning that we can have a child come back after a very violent fight. And it doesn’t look like anything has happened to help that child process,” Easley said.
That’s not the only incident troubling him and some of his colleagues.
A nearby business recently posted a sign on its door that read “All Gridley Middle School students are no longer permitted on Dunkin property.”
“They would disturb our regular customers in the lobby, attempt to shoplift items, as well as destroy store property,” a manager said.
And at one point an employee was “threatened with physical violence.” Attempts by the store and school principal to stop them didn’t work.
“It’s because of all the drama that’s going on. There have been fights that have gone over there,” Easley said.
One fight, in particular, has Easley on edge.
He said a student twice received a 45-day suspension for major fights. One of those incidents left a staff member who tried to break it up severely injured.
“It’s very troubling. It is staggering to see the level of violence where an adult steps in and the child doesn’t back off and pushes towards that adult to reach their target,” he said.
Sylvia Campoy, a civil rights compliance officer involved with TUSD’s desegregation order for decades, said more girls are getting involved in fights and general infractions at school.
She monitors how the district handles discipline among other things.
“As someone who follows TUSD and its trends, what is missing is the data,” she said. “We don’t know how severe it is in TUSD because we have seen no reports and the reports that the plaintiffs have seen that the court has seen have not been validated by any neutral monitoring body.”
Campoy said the court and plaintiffs often get “filtered” data.
“We have to go back and ask for clarification, wait sometimes months to get a response, do our own analysis,” she said.
KOLD has also received filtered data from the district.
After requesting all “Incident Detail Report” data, for the first time in years, the district narrowed the scope, leaving out various incidents that could lead to major misbehavior.
“If you’re good at catching minor incidents in the school and dealing with them through in-house suspensions and restorative practices, then you’re going to see success,” Campoy said.
Easley hasn’t seen much evidence of that. And he’s now worried because the female student is expected to return to Gridley later this month.
Easley believes she should be relocated to another school.
“Why should that child be able to come back to where they hurt someone?” he said.
He brought his concerns to higher-ups, first the school principal and then the assistant superintendent, who declined a meeting request. He wrote to the superintendent in February.
“Nobody has been willing to sit down and talk with us, except for our immediate principal who was very kind to meet with us,” said Easley.
Easley then took it to the next level and sent a letter to the Governing Board.
He wrote, “let’s set up behavioral health requirements so the child gets the help they need so their victims do not have to suffer further pain and trauma.”
KOLD reached out to TUSD and received the following response.
“Tucson Unified does not comment on student and/or staff discipline issues, so we are not able to provide input to your inquiries regarding Gridley Middle School,” the district wrote.
Easley finally got a response from the superintendent a day after his interview with KOLD. His letter to the board seemed to trigger a response.
Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo told him the female student will return to Gridley, but with support in place.
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