Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TOP STORY >> Teacher with gun arrested

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville High School English teacher was arrested Tuesday morning when she inadvertently brought a pistol to school in her purse and a student stole it.

The student who took the gun was quickly apprehended and no one was injured.

This is the second gun incident at the school in less than two years.

The teacher, Jennifer Paul, 55, of Jacksonville, was charged with possession of a handgun on school property. The student, who is a juvenile so his name will not be released, was arrested without incident.

His charges include theft and being a minor in possession of a handgun on school property. He was turned over to the Juvenile Justice Center.

According to the police report, Paul, who has a concealed-carry permit, forgot to take the gun out of her purse before going to school. In her classroom, students saw another student steal the handgun from Paul’s purse and conceal it in his waistband. The theft was reported immediately.

Deb Roush, spokesman for the Pulaski County Special School District, said the teacher has been suspended with pay and the district is investigating. She said the district’s final decision will be made independently of what the prosecutor’s office may decide to do. She also said the incident report has been sent to the teacher’s ethics board for disposition.

“We are very appreciative of the Jacksonville Police Department and their handling of the incident. We had a safe outcome and very little disruption to the normal school day,” Roush said.

Paul appeared before Jacksonville District Court later Tuesday and was released. Her next court date is Feb. 2.

She faces a Class D felony, and according to the law, “no person in this state shall possess a firearm upon the developed property of a public or private school K-12.” The law also states that those convicted of this charge “will not have their sentence suspended, probated or considered as a first offense.”

A Class D felony is punishable by up to six years in the state penitentiary and a fine of up to $10,000.

In a similar incident last year, two shop teachers and a counselor were suspended with pay after a gun was found in a faculty member’s car.

Pamela Perez, 53, a counselor from Beebe, who also had a concealed-handgun license, had a .380 handgun in her car at school Feb. 26. The gun was in the driver’s-side door pocket and visible.

She took her vehicle to the auto shop to have the oil changed, and two 15-year-old students found the gun and reported it to the shop teacher, Wayne Griffin, 39, of Cabot.

According to the police report, Griffin told another shop teacher, James Poindexter, 38, of Conway.

Poindexter took the gun, removed the seven-round clip and placed the gun in a locked storeroom. Poindexter then contacted Perez and explained what had happened, and she made plans to pick up the gun after school.

Then-principal Kenneth Clark got word of the incident and called police, who came and took possession of the gun, clip and ammunition.

Perez, Poindexter and Griffin were immediately suspended with pay. The three were suspended until the police and the school district finished their investigation. No charges were filed and all three eventually returned back to work.