COLUMBIA, Mo. - A student was taken into custody after a gun was found on a school bus Monday afternoon, according to Columbia Public Schools.
In a letter sent to parents, the district said a student riding on a Smithton Middle School bus told the driver another student had a handgun. The driver stopped the bus and took the gun.
Law enforcement officials were contacted and the student was taken into custody.
"Based on information gathered thus far, it also appears that the student was in possession of the item while at school today. We are gathering additional information regarding the incident and will remain vigilant," the letter read.
Michelle Baumstark, CPS spokesperson, said that at first only parents with students on bus No. 232 were notified about the incident around 3:45 p.m.
Baumstark said when they found the student had the gun at school throughout the day, all Smithton Middle School parents were notified around 4:30 p.m.
Baumstark said that by law, the district cannot comment on individual student discipline or personal student information.
According to the student handbook, "Any student who brings or possesses a weapon on school grounds, on a school bus, or at any district activity will be suspended from school for at least one calendar year or may be expelled."
However, the superintendent can change the disciplinary action on a case-by-case basis.
Law enforcement officials say the student and gun owner could face legal charges.
For the student, a legal punishment from community service to incarceration in a juvenile facility could be applied. Bringing a weapon onto a school campus is against the law.
The gun owner could face a charge of endangering the welfare of a child if investigators find the gun was not properly stored.
“It’s just part of good gun ownership," Boone County Sheriff Detective Tom O'Sullivan said. "You’re responsible. You don’t let that firearm get into the hands of someone that doesn’t need to have it."
Unsecured firearms has been a growing problem in Boone County with more than 100 guns being stolen from unlocked vehicles in Columbia this year.
“We do deal with a lot of careless, irresponsible gun owners who, what I say, leave a firearm laying around as if it’s the remote control or their car keys," O'Sullivan said.
It's not clear how the student got the gun or who it belongs to.
Baumstark also did not answer direct questions if the district has policies in place to talk to parents about the gravity of an incident like this.
Data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shows Smithton Middle School has not had a weapons incident in which a student was disciplined since 2010. According to data from 2001 to 2017, it had its most weapons disciplinary incidents in 2008, when there were three cases.
Overall, the data shows the school district has seen a decline in weapons incidents since 2010. There were 14 incidents that year, but only five the following year. Since 2011, weapons disciplinary incidents have not gone above six.