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Teacher’s aide brought loaded gun to school for developmentally challenged students, NY cops say

New York police arrested 24-year-old Gillian Jeffords, a teacher’s aide, after they say she brought a loaded 9 mm Ruger pistol to the Jesse J. Kaplan School, which serves developmentally challenged students ages 5 to 21.
New York police arrested 24-year-old Gillian Jeffords, a teacher’s aide, after they say she brought a loaded 9 mm Ruger pistol to the Jesse J. Kaplan School, which serves developmentally challenged students ages 5 to 21. Clarkstown Police Department

When Gillian Jeffords headed to school for her job as a teacher’s aide, police say, she brought a loaded handgun with her.

That decision led to a lockdown at Jesse J. Kaplan School, a school for students with developmental disabilities ages 5 to 21, according to Pix11. Another teacher looked inside a classroom closet, police say, and noticed the 9mm Ruger pistol in the 24-year-old’s purse before alerting the school’s principal at around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Officers rushed to the school, which was placed on lockdown, CBS New York reported. Police say a school resource officer there took the loaded gun to ensure “there were no further concerns for students’ safety.”

Many students were headed to school on buses when the lockdown was first initiated, according to The Journal News. During the lockdown, students were bused away from the school to a “secure location,” police say.

Roxane Rodriguez, a mother of a 5-year-old at the school, told CBS that “it was pretty scary” to hear of a lockdown at her son’s school.

“You know, anytime you see cops around the school or anything like that now you freak out,” she said. “With everything that’s going on, it’s unfortunate to worry about the one place you feel your child should be safe.”

Police arrested Jeffords and charged her with criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, which is a felony. She has a permit to carry weapons in New York, police say, but it was still illegal to bring the weapon on a school campus.

“As a gun owner with a permit, you should know what you can and cannot do,” police detective Lt. Glenn Dietrich told The Daily Freeman. “It is against the law to carry a firearm on school grounds, regardless of whether you have a license.”

Jeffords had her gun permits confiscated, according to The Daily Freeman, and is suspended without pay. Peter Walker, a Clarkstown police officer, said law enforcement personnel aren’t sure why Jeffords brought the weapon to school — but said there is no evidence that any threats were made.

“At no point was this weapon used in a threatening manner or at no point was this weapon displayed,” he said. “The teacher’s aide was removed from the school and transported to police headquarters for further investigation.”

There was at least one bullet in the gun when it was confiscated, police told The Journal News. No children were in the classroom when the gun was found, said Board of Cooperative Education Services COO Mary Marsico, who added that Jeffords’ decision to bring a gun was additionally scary because a good portion of students have disabilities that require them to use walkers or wheelchairs.

The Daily Freeman wrote that Jeffords was hired last September and is set for a May 7 court appearance.

One of Jeffords’ neighbors said in an interview with CBS that she doesn’t think the 24-year-old would intentionally break the law. But Rodriguez, after enduring a lockdown at her son’s school, said the teacher aide’s intentions don’t matter.

“God forbid somebody got in that bag,” she told the outlet. “And I don’t think that was very responsible of her. So that’s not somebody that should be taking care of children with special needs.”

The mass shooting at a Parkland high school has reignited the debate about arming teachers at schools. Our Elon University/News & Observer/Charlotte Observer poll shows North Carolina teachers think that's a bad idea.

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