'It's very concerning:' Parents react after gun found in elementary student's book bag

Parents in Alexandria are criticizing the amount of time school leaders took to notify families of a loaded gun found in an elementary school.

Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy in Alexandria teaches students from kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the school website. Alexandria police confirmed authorities responded after a student brought a loaded gun into the school.

According to police, the gun was inside a book bag.

"The child voluntarily mentioned in conversation with their teacher that they had a gun," a press release from police reads.

Police said the teacher immediately took the book bag, contacted school authorities, and police were called. No other children were aware of the existence of the gun, according to police. Alexandria police said the gun belongs to a family member of the child, though they did not clarify what the relationship is.

Parents and guardians FOX 5 spoke with in-person and off-camera said they were glad no one was hurt, but they are concerned about how long it took for the school to notify families. The school sent two letters to families, with the first one sent at 3:15 p.m. Friday.

"It’s very concerning. I mean, I didn’t know who brought the gun and they sent the child in the bookbag. I’m like, in a bookbag? Where is the parent? How come they got that gun?" one woman picking up her niece Monday said. "I think that’s sad. They should communicate sooner because of all the stuff that’s going on in the world today, that’s too late. That’s really too late."

In the first letter, principal Laura Burkart acknowledged the initial incident took place late Friday morning. The second letter addressed families that have asked about the timing of the notification.

"While we want to inform families of these incidents as quickly as possible, we do not want to adversely impact any law enforcement investigations either," Burkart wrote.

"We have also been working closely with the ACPS Departments of Student Services & Equity and Human Resources, who will provide school and division counselors, social workers and ComPsych counselors to meet with students and staff in need of support in the building throughout the day. Support circles will also be provided to staff and students next week, and more details regarding this support will be shared with staff and students as it becomes available."

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Ashley Blackwell is the mother of an ACPS student. Though her son does not attend Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, Blackwell said parents in the district should learn of an incident like Friday’s sooner than they did.

"I would definitely want to know if there was a loaded gun at my kid’s school. I would definitely take precaution. I mean, my kid probably wouldn’t even go back to the school. He would definitely go somewhere else," Blackwell said. "If I was notified at the end of the day after the fact, it could have been much worse. It could have turned out much worse."

Burkart’s second letter also addressed whether the student in question would return to school.

 "ACPS does not disclose publicly information regarding student disciplinary matters, but what I can assure you is that student and staff safety is our top priority, and that no person will be admitted into Lyles-Crouch if we believe they present a safety or security threat to our staff or students," she wrote. "We know that a weapon in the school setting is frightening and a matter that is not to be taken lightly. We are grateful to the school staff who handled and quickly addressed this matter. Please know that we will continue to keep our focus on this matter until fully addressed."

 Alexandria police said the family of the student is cooperating with authorities on their investigation.