Parents have been concerned about the safety of their children due to the recent threats and fire evacuations at Leon High School. The latest incident occurred Feb. 1 around 10 a.m. when the Leon High School’s fire alarm went off due to what started off as smoke in the maintenance room on the third floor, and a student who brought a loaded gun to campus.
The smoke eventually transitioned into a fire and students were immediately evacuated to respective outside landmarks depending on their location in the facility. Some students thought the evacuation was just another mock drill.
“Initially I was like, ‘all right here we go another fire drill,’” Justin Peter, 16-year-old Leon High School student, said. “When I started walking out of the building and saw the smoke coming from out the top of the building, then I knew it was legit.”
According to Tallahassee Democrat (TD), arson was suspected to be the cause of the closet fire. Ironically, that wasn’t the only startling incident that occurred that Monday morning.
Roughly a half an hour prior to the dismissing of the fire alarm, a 14-year-old student was placed in handcuffs and arrested by a Leon school resource officer after being caught with a loaded handgun in their backpack. TD reported that the school officer tracked the student down in a classroom in which they discovered the gun and proceeded to make the arrest on the spot.
Officials said there is no evidence yet that links the maintenance room fire and the student with the gun.
Peter’s mother, Stacey, stated she found out about the fire and the loaded gun incident through an automated phone call and mass email from the school. The email stated:
“Dear Leon Family,
I want to provide you with information regarding the events yesterday as well as the status of the school building. Monday morning I had a student and parent come to me at the beginning of 3rd period with information that a student had a gun on campus in his backpack. Our school resource deputy and I were able to secure the student and weapon without incident. While finishing with that situation, a smoke detector in a 3rd floor storage room detected smoke and activated the fire alarm system…
Anytime there is a fire, the state’s Fire Marshal’s office investigates to determine the cause. Investigators have determined that the fire was set by someone.”
Stacey mentioned her biggest concern, as a parent was making sure all the children were safe.
“My main concern was making sure that all the kids were unharmed. There has been a lot of incidents with all the schools around here and I just wanted to make sure everyone was safe,” Stacey stated.
Last month alone there were nearly 2,000 Leon County students, both middle and high school, who allegedly skipped school or were taken out by their parents due to violent threats on social media targeting high schools like Lincoln, Richards, Godby and Cobb Middle School.
Although these suspicious incidents seemed to be alarming to the community, Leon High School Principal Billy Epting is working closely with Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons to fix these problems.
“I take this job and this school very seriously. It’s not just a job for me. My own children have even graduated or go to school here. I’m on the parent side as well,” Epting said in press conference.